After loving Viking's Midnight Sun cruise through Norway's fjords to the Arctic Circle we decided to explore the other end of the world and around Cape Horn. This is a new dedicated cruise path for Viking beginning in December, 2019. We traveled from Santiago to Buenos Aires beginning late January, 2020. After reading some rather negative reviews here regarding ports and excursions, had to put in my two cents.
South America does have its world class cities, one of which will be either your embarkation or disembarkation point. The remainder of the cruise is through rugged, spectacularly beautiful nature with very few settlements or roads. You will stop in small, sometimes run down and poor port towns where a bit of travel is needed to get out to experience the awesome surrounding national parks or more charming villages. The further South you go, you have the opportunity to learn about the amazing early explorers who arrived by sailing ships through uncharted and unexplored waters. Two of the towns are jumping off points for Antarctic Expeditions and can be exciting for that activity. All of them have their own unique history and lifestyle. This is a cruise where research prior to traveling would be beneficial to enhance ones enjoyment and understanding.
With numerous sea days and the potential for changing or rough weather, it may not be the cruise for everyone. The best time to travel here is exactly when Viking sails - December through February. Consider the location of Chile. The weather travels west to east, there is absolutely nothing, no landmass to stop or moderate the weather or seas approaching so far South. The good news is that if it does blow or the seas are up, it usually lasts for only a day in the summer whereas in the winter weather systems could last for days or weeks. It is possible that some excursions could be cancelled in Punta Arenas because of the fierce Patagonia winds, you may not see the volcano peaks in Puerto Montt due to low hanging clouds, the ship may only get close to Cape Horn but cannot round it and the tenders may not land in the Falklands even with only 30 knot winds. The swimming pools on board may close if it becomes too rolly and you may be banned from going out on the deck during certain conditions. However the Viking ocean vessels handle the seas extremely well and the Captain has your well being and comfort first and formost in his decision making. This South American itinerary is an adventure, an exciting learning experience if you are open to it and should be embarked upon without prior expectations.
The Newer Jupiter:
The Jupiter was put into service in 2019 and is nearly identical to her sister ships. The major difference is the Planetarium in the upper level of the Explorers Lounge. We attended a lecture about the stars of the Southern skies and two of the dome shows. All were very good with the show of the Northern Lights the best. However, we did miss the seating area taken by the Planetarium and found we used that sitting space more then the shows. We thought the Jupiter had some nice improvements such as larger fitness center and smaller shops area. There is a new omlet station for breakfast and noodle station for lunch/dinner just around the corner from the World Cafe in the Aquavit Terrace. The Veranda & Deluxe Veranda cabins have 3 drawers and a shelf in the closet now making for better storage.
Staff & Service:
The ship was spotless as was our cabin. Staff was always cleaning something from glass doors to handles to public rest rooms. Our room steward met our every need including 2 carafs of water AM and PM and our choice of beverage in fridge. The service throughout the ship was outstanding and we were greeted by smiling staff aways asking how they can help. Officers and lecturers were visible and approachable. One evening the Cruise Director asked to join us at our table in the World Cafe. When departing the ship we were handed bottled water if we wished and upon return either a warm or cold towel and sometimes even a glass of champagne.
Finding a quiet spot to sit to sit alone was easy and we could always find a grouping of 4 or 6 seats for happy hour with friends. The ship never felt crowded on sea days even with a full passenger load. My friends loved the fitness center and quickly learned the less busy times.
I loved the Spa and never saw it too crowded. There was more then enough to keep a person occupied between games, lectures, lessons, special events, port talks, yoga sessions, meditation classes, tastings and movies so we chose carefully so as not to miss the often greater show passing by just outside the windows. Even when the weather was misty with low hanging clouds, it was spectacular. It is very easy to meet others and find something in common whether a book, activity, excursion comparison or place you have both traveled.
We are not much for shows and don't like crowded spaces with people coughing so only went to the Captains Welcome and part of the Beatles review which was meh. We are not a good standard for Entertainment recommendations. However we did enjoy Pianist, String Duo and Guitarist (the most) at their different performances around the ship and we liked dancing in Torshavn or around the pool wherever the Viking band happened to be playing.
I love to cook and we love to eat trying different things. The dining in all the venues was outstanding and we ate our way through them all. We loved the touch screens around the ship where you could view the menus and decide where to eat. I would often ask for half portions at The Restaurant so i could have more courses. In the World Cafe the plated items were small or you self served as much as you wished. In all eating areas the included wine was freely poured or the SSP choices quickly served. If we didn't like the days included wine, we were able to order a very healthy pour of the premium wines for $6 a glass.
Don't miss the World Cafe after the Ushuaia port. The seafood section will be piled high with King Crab Legs. They even had scallops on the shell a couple of days. Both the Chefs Table and Manfredi's are excellent. On two nights Surf & Turf (lobster and fillet mignon) were food events around the pool. You would get your table and line up at the pool grill for your food. People went gaga over the event so we tried it the first night. We decided we would much prefer ordering steak to our own taste, could skip the lobster, and liked the much larger selection of sides dishes and desserts elsewhere. We loved Mamsen's different breakfast choices - 3 different pickled herring, dark breads cut to your thickness, geitost brown goat cheese, fresh berries and waffles made much better then in World Cafe. And there is Room Service where you can have your own private dining service in your pj's watching a movie on tv or out on your deck.
We don't use the in room coffee machine because we like cream. Did not like the at table caraf coffee even when I got cream instead of milk. The machines in the World Cafe were okay and had nice choices but were slow. Then I found the Viking Living Room bar where they would make it fresh to order. Oh my.
We liked the casual dress with collars, trousers but no jeans, coats or ties in the Restaurant or 2 specialty dining spots. Rest is very casual but no bath robes allowed when dining. The itinerary and colder climate of this cruise lent itself to a more casual outdoorsy dress with flannel, sweaters and hiking shoes rather then dressy.
On our first cruise we were upgraded to a Penthouse Veranda which was spacious with more storage drawers then we needed and ample counter space for our stuff. We had a Deluxe Veranda for this cruise and were concerned it might be too tight especially with needing clothing for temperatures from 35 to 95 degrees! We had absolutely no problem storing all our clothing and our empty suitcases went under the bed. We did have to be a bit mindful with our camera, tablets and phones chargers etc. However the items we did not carry with us fit in the safe and the room had a huge tray where we could stash all the papers, maps, brochures and Viking Daily that we collected. That way if we needed the coffee table seating area, we just moved that tray to the bed.
We thought he bed was very comfortable and the linens silky feeling. The closet alongside the bed rather then in the entrance hall was a bit tight but accessable. The bathroom was large with a great shower and ample shelves and drawers. The heated floor and fog free mirrors were very welcome features. We love the Freya products especially the body lotion. When we found it difficult to adjust the floor heat, it was fixed that day. Once in the middle of night we could not get the toilet to flush so called maintenance thinking they would schedule the fix in the morning. We were amazed when they came immediately.
Ports and Shore Excursions:
We traveled from Santiago (Valparaiso) to Buenos Aires, did our own airfare and two days pre-cruise before embarkation. We had a midnight flight out of Buenos Aires which gave us two full days there. We mostly did self researched private excursions, one Viking included excursion and 3 Viking optional excursions. I did more then one year of research of all the ports, surrounding areas, national parks, wildlife seasons and migration, private guides, distances between attractions and ports, weather patterns, ships route and political climate.
We knew what to expect and what we wanted to do and reserved our guides well in advance of the cruise. The remainder we booked when we were allowed to by Viking.
The airport was a dream and we were amazed at how quickly we got through customs, immigration and baggage. Got pre paid taxi prior to leaving secured area. We dithered about our B&B lodging located a kilometre away from the epicenter of the social unrest in Santiago but did not change to a further away spot. We loved the quiet Barrio Italia area, felt very safe and found the experience very educational. Explored locally on our own.
Day 2 we had a private I Love Chile guide for an all day tour to the Maipo Valley, high Andes mountains with a little hike, picnic style wine tasting with snacks, a tasty typical Chilean lunch at a tiny mom restaurant and a got a wealth of information about flora and fauna, geology, history, current social situation, industry of the area, local lifestyle all while listening to typical Chilen music during our long drive back. Worth the long day and drive through the gorgeous areas. The highest mountain peaks of the western hemisphere are found here.
Day 3 same guides picked us and our luggage up at our Inn for another all day custom private excursion with drop off at the Jupiter. We drove the opposite direction out of Santiago through wine country to La Casa Isla Negra, the oceanside home of Pablo Neruda. Spectacular location with a very informative self guided tour of the home, grounds and collections of this famous Chilean poet and statesman. Next was another local lunch at a restaurant in the middle of a Eucalyptus forest that Chilean families frequent on a weekend. Our last stop was at Indomita Winery for a tasting not a tour. It was a spectacular hillside location. Our guides dropped off at the Valparaiso port terminal with after some confusion on how to get in. With our wine buzz we didn't care. Once there, the security process and transfer to ship was flawless. Our private limo (read port bus) whisked us to the ship where we boarded, accepted the proferred glass of bubbly, and found our room. Our luggage was already inside. We may have been the last passengers to arrive at 7:30 pm.
The port is right in the city, rather commercial/industrial and well secured. We were docked right at a gate near Plaza Sotomayer but were required to take a port bus to the terminal a mile away if we wanted to leave - a bit of a pain. The views of the Valpo hills was beautiful and the port waters traffic colorful.
Valparaiso Viking Included Excursion:
We chose an afternoon time slot in order to chill on an empty ship after 3 busy days, for better photography reasons and because everyone wants morning tours. Valpo on the Pacific is often foggy in the AM so there was a better chance of a clear day in the afternoon which turned out true for us. It was a panoramic driving excursion that many complain about but, for us, very entertaining. Both guide and driver were local and excellent in speech, information and skill. It was a Saturday, summer vacation for locals with lots of traffic to the beach village of Vina del Mar. It was interesting to see how and where locals spend their holidays. We stopped at the Fronck Museum where the curator of the Easter Island gave us an informative talk on the displays. Our group was small and the only tour there. We would have preferred to learn more about the natives tribes of Patagonia as that is where we would be cruising. But we did have a few minutes of free time to view those exhibits. Our tour continued through the town as we drove to the cliffside city of Valparaiso. We loved the bus drive through the twisting narrow streets where we were able to see a funicular and lots of the street art. The Valpo stop was at Plaza Sotomayer for a walk around and photos of the naval center, statues and historic buildings.
This can be a docked or a tender stop depending on the tide. It can also be a cancelled port if the winds blow strongly from a Southerly direction. It was low tide so we tendered. Even with a private excursion we got on the first tender with the help of the assistant cruise director. Viking optional excursions included what we wanted to see and do but in separate tours. We didn't see much of Puerto Montt as our objective was to have as much time as possible in nature. With our Tours by Locals guide we first drove up to the ski center at Osorno Volcano with photo stops on the way. The skies were clear and the views of the surrounding mountains, volcanos and lake below are indescribable. Other then a few Spanish speaking hikers we were the only people there. From the ski center we took a 45 minute walk up and around a trail for more expansive views but not to the caldera (too far and difficult for us). Driving down we counted 6 Viking buses driving up. Next stop was at a beach on Lago Todos los Santos for a look around. Pretty with different volcano views. On to the Petrohue Falls and River where we walked the different trails. Spectacular and all the buses were gone by now. Our guide sure knew when to take us where. There were many people here but just small family groups. Final stop was a walk around in Puerto Varas where our guide dropped us off at the lakeside pier near the town plaza. Very picturesque and local experience. Excelllent full day.
Cruising Amalia Glacier:
After a day cruising the scenic fjord passages and then going offshore for some coastal sailing, the Amalia Glacier in Bernard O' Higgens National Park was the main attraction of the next day. Our approach to the glacier, the time spent with the Captain slowly turning the ship right up close, and the retracing our course out of that fjord took the entire morning. There was occasional commentary by the Polar Explorer lecture expert. Viking staff kept busy serving hot chocolate to the bundled up passengers on the outside decks - the temps were probably in the 30's F. It was great fun with everyone going in and out, taking photos and the most crowded we have seen the Explorers Lounge. We lost our clear blue skies the day before but the moody, misty, brightening then darkening dramatic skies and views contributed to an experience of a lifetime.
After an enjoyable sail in through the famed Straits of Magellan, we arrived and docked in Punta Arenas under sunny skies. It was a totally different scenery with the colorful portside town surrounded by dry rocky Patagonia Steppe terraine with very low mountains in the backdrop. My husband and I each chose different Viking optional excursions.
I did Strait of Magellan Park which consisted of a stop at the hillside view over town, another stop at a monument marking the center of Chile and at the Park where we visited Fort Bulnes and a museum. The Fort is a recreated site of a mid 1800's Chilean military settlement where we learned about the trials and failures of this and a much earlier settlement in the area. The museum was a continued education of the areas flora & fauna, exploration attempts, ship miniatures and early cartographers renditions. The location on a bluff high above the Strait was stunning. Unfortunately it was much too windy to walk the 3 trails along the cliffs edge.
My hubby scheduled the Patagonian Andes by Foot excursion which was cancelled as the winds were too high for the safe ski lift operation which would take them up for the forested hike down. In addition, anything on water (boat trips to penguins or kayaking expeditions) were cancelled. Instead he went on the Punta Arenas & Magellans Discovery tour which went to an open air museum where one could explore lifesize replicas of the Nao Victoria (Magellans ship), HMS Beagle (on which Darwin traveled) and the Ancud which bought the 21 settlers to Fort Bulnes. Following that stop they visited a musuem with area flora and fauna as well as displays depicting the different original native tribes in their natural habitat as well as interactions with E muropean missionaries. Final stop was at the Cerro (hilltop viewpoint) and a visit to the lovely Punta Arenas town square. He was disappointed that the hike was cancelled but enjoyed seeing the ships and musuem as it brought to life our study of the history of the area.
Punta Arenas could be a cancelled stop. We were very fortunate that the winds had not begun prior to our early morning docking. Four different excursions were cancelled but the rest went out. I am small and about 126 lbs. and had a heck of a time walking down the dock to the terminal in the crosswind. After my AM excursion I decided to walk to the town square myself. I did not anticipate the strength of the wind at the crosswalks out of the protection of the buildings and hung on to the light poles when a gust came. Punta Arenas has metal handrail along their city blocks for the high winds but they do not extend to the corners. Several times local men offered an arm to safely get me to the handrails. The winds were a sustained 40 mph with gusts of 60. The famed patagonia winds that blow cars off the road in open country. At the terminal the winds were whipping up the water and mist, spray and occasional waves crashed across the dock. Fortunately Viking had an 18 passenger mini bus to shuttle us safely back to the ship. Two tug boats barely got the Jupiter off the dock and into open water as she was pinned to the dock with the winds abeam. Excitement indeed.
North Beagle Channel and Glacier Alley:
Its not an event and no one at Viking tells you about it. If your cruise travels South from Valparaiso, you will pass through this spectacular area between 5:30-7:30 am before you dock in Ushuaia. If you travel South from Buenos Aires, you will pass through here after departing Ushuaia between 5 to 8 pm. Its a narrow channel with the Darwin Mountains and numerous glaciers tumbling to the channel. Spectacular large waterfalls flow from some glaciers. Countless lacy line long waterfalls flow from the mountain tops. We ran back and forth from one side of the ship to the other to view the display. No one was up other then the crew setting up in the World Cafe. They even took photo breaks and did group photos in front of the background. Late risers were very disappointed.
Summer brings late sunsets any month you cruise here. However the sunrises get later in the morning the further your travel date is from December 21st. Our late January cruise brought sunrise after 6 am so we missed much of the North Beagle channel in the dark but did see the large glaciers and waterfalls for about an hour. Traveling earlier in January or in December from Valparaiso would be better. In February it will be too dark in the morning.
We had booked a private excursion with Alma Calma to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Wow, DOUBLE wow. This was the best yet. It seems all guides want to show off and tell you about their town so we had a brief drive through and informative overview of Ushuaia, our first town in Argentina. The drive from town to the park was a short half hour with lots of local information provided and a photo stop along the way overlooking a beautiful area where people can camp. Being a private tour, our guide asked us if we wanted to detour to see the End of the World train whose line was built by prisoners. We had a short stop at the station to see this colorful historic train. Our objective was 3 or 4 different hikes in the park. At the entrance, our guide talked to one of the Viking tour bus drivers to learn the order of their stops and walking duration if any. We had 4 magnificent short to long hikes along lakes, wetlands, boardwalks, into magical dwarfed forests and to the End of the World Post Office as well as the end of the Trans-Patagonia Highway without crowds of people from buses and few other hikers. The guide knew all the names of the plants, trees and birds. We had a rest break with individual cups of Mate and Dulce de Leche cake made by his wife. Tears come to my eyes as I describe this excursion and the beauty of Tierra del Fuego.
South Beagle Channel and Cape Horn:
I describe our evening sail out of Ushuaia and our next mornings rounding of Cape Horn here. Again the beauty of the Beagle Channel here is not something that Viking announces. Evening sails like this is another reason we don't go to Star Theatre shows or schedule dinners in the specialty restaurants with their small windows. We find the show from the deck better, and for dining, a window table in the World Cafe is best. We had an endless magnificent sunset lighting the mountains lining the channel. The lowering light on the sandstone "Gables" formation was a photographers dream. We got a distant view of Port Williams as the ship had to clear back into Chile before the Cape trip the next day.
Next morning our approach to Cape Horn was a long slow sail with not a whole lot to see initially. The wind was light, seas were really low and visibility very good. We had to stand off for a bit as another cruise ship had their turn. Apparently boats large and small have a permitted visitation time. This is the only time we saw another cruise ship larger then Vikings on this entire cruise. We circumnavigated Cape Horn up close and counterclockwise. It was so clear that we could see all the little bays and the lighthouse structure with keepers dwelling very clearly at the top. As we got around to the South side of the island, we were even able to see the famed albatross sculpture through binoculars. Our visit could only have been better if we had set foot on the island. It was so calm that we did see some lucky travelers land by zodiac on Cape Horn from a small boat.
Much of the remainder of the day was spent steaming back toward Isla Picton to meet up with a pilot boat who cleared the Jupiter out and escorted her from Chilean waters. Not much to see but open water and lots of seabirds until the Falklands a day and a half hence.
The Falkland Islands:
To land or not to land, that is the question and the primary discussion of passengers on our previous sea day. Jupiter anchored in the outer harbor and it didn't appear too windy. We had a private Volunteer Point excursion with Patrick Watts along with about 20 other passengers. The cruise director put us on the very first tender along with their early morning tours. The ship to tender and tender to pier process went well. However there was a question about tours commencing as the wind was building. The Viking excursion departed so Patrick released our rovers. Prior to leaving we watched another tender attempt to dock several times once hitting another boat. The driver looked less skilled in the wind then ours had been and eventually returned the passengers to the ship. Our tour was about a half hours drive into the countryside when we, as the lead vehicle, got the radio call to abort the mission. Our caravan reversed course but were given the go ahead to do a drive through tour of the town. Our driver was very upbeat, knowledgable and funny. We learned a lot about the island, its people, relationship to Great Britain and what it was like to be a 17 year old girl during the Falkland Islands war. Patrick did not charge us for the excursion but we all gave our guide driver a heafty tip for her excellent but short tour. It was hold on to your hats time at the pier but no problem stepping from dock to tender or tender to ship as i feared. Only mishap was the tender driver had left the hatch above him open for air and when the tender took a wave on the bow a wall of water soaked him and splashed on several passengers seated below him. Just another adventure.
It was a third on water or full sea day for most passengers with no one seeing penguins once again. Some of us with our own powerful binoculars spotted penguins and seals on far beaches as the Jupiter exited the outer harbor. The sea conditions did not seem too bad to our group of small boat sailors...YET. It did get very windy on this unplanned sea day with 48- 57 knot winds as announced by the Captain but the seas were not bad as we seemebd to be sailing with them. Even our next sea day was not bad with temperatures getting warmer and calmer winds.
Again the Viking excursions here did not fill our needs although some sounded pretty interesting. Initially we were tempted by just doing the Welsh town tea until I learned it was a 2 hour drive each way, tea and no time to explore the cute town. If I am going to travel that far, it better be a worthwhile adventure. The Viking tour to Penninsula Valdez was tempting but after some research on their stops, I learned that the whales are long gone by the end of December so the town stop there was only to eat. I also learned that the beach wildlife where Viking would stop was in the far distance where you were required to remain on a blufftop walkway. If the penguins happened to waddle your way, you were among them, otherwise no. We vetoed the long drive to Punta Trombo for penguins even with a private guide because we figured it would be crowded with Viking buses and we didn't want to take time away from wildlife for a potentially long lunch. So I scheduled a private excursion with Sentir Patagonia to Penninsula Valdez visiting the entrance museum, Estancia San Lorenzo (for a lengthy walk through a hugh Magallenic penguin colony followed by a Patagonian Lamb lunch at the working ranch) followed by a drive 30 minutes further to Punta Norte for elephant seals and a sizable sea lion colony who had pups this time of year. There was also the possibility of seeing orcas if the tide was right. I told Diego what and all we were interested in seeing and learning and he told me he was assigning the best guide he had to us. Jupiter was the only ship in port and almost all passengers did Viking excursions so they didn't have much business.
This private excursion was our biggest stretch for potential risk. The day was long, driving very far and traveling on washboard roads with little other traffic. However the drive, the dusty bumpity-bump road and long day was so worth it. Our teacher guide was superb. She knew every bird we spotted, plant we passed, her driver was eagle-eye stopping numerous times to show us Rhea, Guanaco herds, a burrowing owl nest and geese families. While driving we learned about the industry in Puerto Madryn town and as we traveled through the world heritage site of Penninsula Valdes, we learned about the unique patagonian steppe geology and heard about the sheep ranchers, their lonely isolated lives, shearing season, sheep ID tagging and mating practices.
At Punto Norte we observed several large sea lion family groups with dozens of pups each spread along the coast. Each harem had a massive bull who watched over his females while they tended their pups as the pups played just like dogs do. Several times we saw males fending off would be young males seeking to steal pups thereby luring a female away from the harem. It was incredibly entertaining and violent at times. There were two very boring juvenile elephant seals laying among the sea lions occasionally throwing sand at each other with their flippers. They really looked like the masses of blubber that they are. The tide was not right for the orcas to come in hunting baby sea lions so we did not spot them.
Our lunch at the ranch (San Lorenzo) was in a picturesque wooden building used as the shearing shed during the season. Lunch was the traditional lamb grill with fixings and very tasty. Wine was not included but we bought 4 hugh glasses of red wine for a total of $7.00. It was very special to be on a working farm. From there it was a short drive to the trailheads on the penguin reserve portion of the property where 500,000 pairs of penguins and counting nest each year. We were asked to remain 3 meters from the penguins unless they walk up to us which they did. We were also told to stay out of their path between burrow and sea because if we block them, they may turn around and their chick will not be fed that day. What an experience! Penguins, penguins all around and we only had time for one trail and a small portion of this huge rookery. One could spend an entire day here as there are fossil trails, archeological excavations, and ranger guided walks deeper into this natural area.
On our drive back, our guide talked about the Argentine viewpoint of the Falklands war and her experience of it as a 19 year old girl. Very insightful and educational. She also read us fractured fairy tales from a book she had as we quietly relaxed.
Two Sea Days to Montevideo, Uruguay:
As a prelude to the next days conditions, our overnight sleep was twice interrupted by the bed shuddering. Having experienced a series of earthquakes on our home island prior to this cruise, I thought I was dreaming of home. But no, it was the building seas crashing against the hull. This first sea day was our roughest yet and the only day i put on my wrist sea bands. The pools were closed and all doors where passengers could access outside decks were locked and closed. We had 25 to 30 foot seas and winds up to 70 knots. The Jupiter handled the conditions admirably well. One had to be mindful of their step using the numerous handrails along the walls as there was a bit of rolly and occasionally jerking motion. The best place to view the seas was through the windows in The Restaurant on deck two. Forget about your room deck as windows and balconies were wave splashed and salt encrusted all the way to deck 6. Wind and waves moderated by nightfall and we were dancing under the stars on the pool deck by evening. Next sea day was perfect.
Our friends did the La Rabida Cattle Ranch Encounter, a Viking optional, and absolutely loved it. They claimed it was a wonderful country cultural experience with local people at a family ranch.
We did the Viking optional tour entitled Heritage & Culture of Uruguay. It was changed from the description when we booked but thats okay as we realize that Viking is tweeking their excursions based on passenger reviews. Ours was the afternoon excursion for this title and probably a different order from the morning. First we visited the historic Montevideo Agricultural Market. It was recently refurbished structure and quite lovely. It was a Saturday and the market stalls were filled with shopping locals and beautifully organized with every fruit and vegetable imaginable. There were numerous kiosks for purchasing prepared foods, pastries, mate cups and straws, wine and all matter of goods. A once walk around was enough and too much time was spent here - but then we are not shoppers. Lunch was at Facal a well known cornerside eatery for a delicious lunch of the "chivito" sandwich and two different Uruguayan wines which never made it to our table. When a beverage was offered we were not told that the wine was included. A bit disorganized. On the corner was a handsome couple dancing the tango and we had a few minutes to photograph the lovely architecture in this downtown area. Some would say its run down but hey this is real life not a tourist trap. Our bus dropped us off at a huge square surrounded by historic and government buildings. Dominating the square was a statue and monument to the fellow who liberated Uruguay from the clutches of Brazil as well as his guarded underground tomb which we visited. It was interesting history indeed but much too much time was spent standing in the square and inside the tomb building to listen. Next we walked through an historic arch entrance to the oldest part of the city and from there nearly marched along this lovely tree lined gorgeous old building street for pedestrians only. There were shops and cafes and little parks to explore but we carried on trying not to lose sight of our guide. This is the area where we would have much enjoyed strolling, exploring, photographing and maybe hear some stories about the neigborhood. We passed quickly through the Port Market's impressive wought-iron structure with its barbecue and seafood restaurants to the Carnival Musuem. This museum is an historic collection of the traditional costumes, drums, masks and multimedia related to the renowned festival. It was very interesting but small so we viewed the displays but skipped the lecture deciding to retrace our steps to the area we wished to explore more. We returned at the designated bus pick up time and location but there was no guide, bus or passenger in sight. Fortunately I can speak Spanish well enough to get directions back to the ship. All we had to do was walk a block over and we saw the Jupiter right there on the dock. We enjoyed the excursion stops well enough but would have prefered a different timing. Maybe even skipping the sit down lunch instead having time to sample the different offerings in the markets or from street vendors.
This city was the biggest surprise and joy to us. I am so happy that I listened to a well traveled girlfriend who said do NOT miss exploring BA, the Paris of the South, and she has not even been here. Although the Viking included was a lengthy exploration of this world class city, we opted out of the bus loads and instead chose a private tour with Tours by Locals. It was another 8 hour affair and we needed to find our way out of the commercial port. Buses were in line waiting for the Viking excursion people and we had to wait a tad for the transport for self explorers and crew going to town. No problem. Once again our guide was knowledgable and outstanding - a real porteno. We traveled to all the different colorful neighborhoods and sectors, historic streets, markets, squares and buildings as well as walked through Recoleta Cemetary while listening to stories and gossip about its inhabitants. We arrived at the famous cathedral just in time to catch the changing of the guard at the tomb inside. We visited a really cool musuem at the site of the old customs house which showcased the movement of goods through old chain and pulley systems displayed underground through clear windows in the floor. This was in a part of BA that used to be waterside before the massive landfill work and development in the city. The museum also housed a display of everything Perone and Evita - train carriages, furniture displays, table settings, utensils, clothing, carriages and cars. Unique. We had an a la parrilla lunch at a local restaurant which was not included but incredibly economical. We walked to the second most beautiful library in the world. It was a packed full day and well worth the time. The driver would drop us off close to the area we would visit, we would explore as we wished our guide walking and explaining, then she would call our driver who would pick us up wherever we were. A wonderful system.
Disembarkation, Tigre River Delta Tour, Hilton Stay and Transfer to Airport with Viking:
There has been much complaining on the Boards about the Viking transfers for late flights but all we can say is kudos and thank you to Viking. We did our own air arrangements and signed up and paid for the full Viking day of tour, hotel and transfer. As usual luggage for the plane not carry on was put outside our door the night before. In addition we put our carry on outside the door that we did not wish to have with us on our tour. Next morning Viking buses whisked us off with guide to the Tigre River where we boarded river boats for a truly scenic ride while learning about the rivers' housing residents. After the boat tour we drove through rather slow weekday traffic through Buenos Aires suburbs with a stop in San Isidro at the neo-gothic cathedral. Beautiful town with huge trees lining the streets and in the cathedral park. Our guide was from that town and had lots to say. We were dropped off at the BA Hilton around 2:30 where those of us with flights after 9 pm were given a sleeping room. Our luggage had been stored with the concierge during our tour where we picked it up instead of waiting for it to be delivered. We were given a voucher for a sandwich meal in the restaurant and a non alcoholic drink. We were asked to reconfirm our flight time and sign up for our airport transfer time at the Viking rep table. We had to vacate our room by 6 pm, bring our luggage back to the concierge and wait for 8 pm bus transfer to airport for our midnight flight. We had enough time to rest and shower in our room before 6 pm which was wonderful. We had a nice sandwich and some wine in the lobby while waiting for the transfer bus. Upon its arrival we were to ID our luggage and there were bellhops to help put it on the bus. Everything went smoothly if you listened and complied with all the instructions given or asked a readily available Viking rep if you did not. We were on the last transfer bus and, when everyone was boarded, the staff noticed luggage with Viking tags still waiting by the concierge. It was put on our bus. I don't know if it got to the travelers.
Buenos Airport was a fairly quick drive at that time of night. There was a little confusion using the baggage check in kiosks for us. We managed, got through customs, security and learned our gate was not yet assigned. The first gate area where we waited for our gate info was depressingly dismal. Once we got our gate number and walked further, the airport was nicer. In the US you go through security then you can buy water to take on board. So we got some water in BA. However we had to go through another security check at the gate in order to board where some passengers were taken aside and both they and their carry on items were searched. It was here that our water was confiscated before boarding. Oh well.
The End is Near:
Thank you if you made it this far. I think I added some photos from my android phone hee.
But our Nikon photos are too large to add. If anyone is wanting to read our complete journal and see tons of photos, check out the blog i am working on. As of 7-13-20 I have completed up to Puerto Arenas but all will be done eventually. Its my first try at blogging, no advertising and not commercial. Check out Tomko2Travel.blogspot.com.
Discussed cabin above but can add here that we loved its positioning right outside the forward most elevators. It was quiet and the elevators and stairs were less trafficed. Loved getting right nearby the Explorers Lounge as well as by the Spa on the lower level. Even when returning from shore we would walk forward to those lifts.
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