Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. First was the kick off, then Costa Rica, the Panama Canal and now the next stop in their Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage (next voyage January 2018).
One very busy sea day followed before our arrival into Chile.
In the morning, we attended that Mariners Reception and Luncheon, where guests are recognized for their loyalty to Holland America Line and receive medals for the various milestones they achieve. We do have one couple in our group who are in the exclusive President’s Club, having sailed more than 1,400 days. In the afternoon, an Argentine Tango lesson was being offered. We recognized the male teacher as the same one we met several years ago. He and his partner will be on for the next three weeks, so we will attend and struggle with the lessons as we have done before. That same evening, there was a special Peruvian dinner in the specialty restaurant, paired with local wines.
We’re not big beef eaters, but the main course was an incredibly tender marinated tenderloin. We also especially liked the Aguadito de Pollo, a spiced chicken soup rich with cilantro, onion, and pepper. It was a 7 course, 5 wine meal.
Our Guests generally do not know each other before the voyage begins, so we enjoy giving them as many opportunities as possible to interact. And what better way to get to know people than at a host dinner party for 12 in the small specialty restaurant on board.
It was, as always, a leisurely three-hour dinner, so there was plenty of time to share stories and hear everyone’s background – as well as to reconnect with folks we’ve sailed with before.
Our first port in Chile, Arica, is the northernmost city in Chile, very close to Peru, and bordered by the Atacama desert.
The most prominent feature as our ship arrives, is the Morro de Arica. It’s a very steep hill looming over the coastline just south of the main square. The views from the top are spectacular but the getting there is not so easy. There is a combination of steps and very steep ramps to climb, some covered in sand. We finished the up and down before it got too hot and then headed to the beach promenade to continue our walk. The area is lovely but there is little shade. We continued on for a mile or more until the beach area ended and we came upon a colony of seabirds nesting in the shallow water and among the rocks along the shoreline. There were thousands of them. We watched as dozens at a time landed in what seemed a perfect ballet – everyone knowing his/her place. This was a small treasure we were happy to discover.
Returning to the main square, we also discovered a giant shopping area, which is a pedestrian mall extending at least 10 blocks inland and several blocks east and west. We wondered how we had never seen this in our previous visits. Just proves our theory that there is always something new to see.
The following morning, we arrived in the very busy port city of Coquimbo. Two years ago, this part of Chile experienced an 8.7 magnitude earthquake, followed by a destructive tsunami. Evidence of the damage is still very visible along the waterfront as rebuilding continues at a slow pace.
We headed out with a group of our Guests for a tour of the city and its neighbor, the small town of La Serena. We had several photo stops at scenic viewpoints, including a visit to the El Faro lighthouse, symbol of the city. After a brief stop at the Archeological museum, we were treated to local small bites and drinks, the most interesting being a delicious Pisco sour. Some of our Guests eyed it suspiciously, after the warnings we were given about consuming raw egg whites, but we assured them the restaurant that was serving them had been thoroughly vetted by Holland America and they could safely enjoy anything that was offered.
We still had some time when the tour returned, so we took a walk along the coast, past the fish market, and the local restaurant row as well as a very long stretch of beach. There is a colony of sea lions that live right in the harbor and put on a show for anyone walking by. They often come up on the shore and we were able to watch one huge one – his head was gigantic and he actually did look like a lion! That was an unexpected treat.
Next was Valparaiso. It is a large and bustling city with many places for visitors to enjoy.
- Some guests took the two-hour ride to explore Chile’s capital, Santiago.
- Others headed to the Casablanca Valley, the popular wine growing region for a day of tastings.
- And many rode to Viña del Mar, the fashionable beach and resort town for a day of shopping and people watching.
If you stayed in the city, there are dozens of funiculars that take you up and down the steep hills, the brightly colored houses that line the hillsides, and the many historic plazas and monuments. But our day in Valparaiso was really an adventure!After the two different shuttle rides required to leave the port, we hopped on a local bus for a harrowing high speed ride about 15 miles down the coast to the lesser known resort town of Concón.
We were headed to an area called The Dunes, and it was exactly as you might expect. Right next to the highway, rising several hundred feet up, was a mile or more of sand dunes. Some parts were covered with low vegetation, the rest were windblown and unspoiled hills of sand.
We were almost alone in our climb to the highest point – another young girl was sitting on the ridge. It was a hard climb up but afforded an unexpectedly beautiful view of the coastline below.
Three hundred and eleven steps later, we were on a narrow road and walking trail that extended for miles. It was a wonderfully scenic walk to it – unusual and unspoiled rock formations and crashing waves unlike the other parts of the coast. We wound up doing some rock climbing to get to the cache spot but unfortunately, the location was filled with trash, and no cache.
From that spot, we took another local bus back to Viña del Mar. We climbed another long set of stairs in a local park to get to a lookout point and stumbled upon a giant stadium being set up for a concert. We wanted to walk further in the park up to an old palace, but each path had signs saying “Dangerous – Don’t Walk”. We don’t know if it was danger from construction or crime or terrain, but you don’t have to tell us twice – there are plenty of other places that are safe. We watched the beach scene for a while and decided to walk back toward Valparaiso, knowing we could catch a bus at many different points along the way if we wanted to. It turned out to be too nice to ride so before we knew it, we had walked all the way back to the shuttle stop at the port, a distance of about 4 miles.
Another day at sea on our way south along the Chilean coastline gave us a moment to relax after our day of exploring. The highlight was the first of several Officers’ Black and White Balls. This is a gala dress up night where the officers and staff come out to dance and mingle with the guests. For some of them, it is absolute torture since they can’t dance, but they are not given a choice. In theory, if a guest asks one of them to dance, they can’t say no. They are good sports and we did have fun with some of our favorite staff.
Coming up is one of our all time favorite ports. But you’ll have to wait for the next installment to find out where that is.
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