We have been on the cruise now for a little over 3 days now and it has been simply fantastic. We took a taxi from our hotel to the cruise terminal, which ironically was located pretty far from our actual cruise ship, which was pretty much at the base of the hill from our hotel. But, you have to go through the cruise terminal a few miles a way, so we did. We dropped our checked bags, filled out the medical questionnaire (no, we do not have Ebola) and then took a bus back to the ship, which again was most of the way back to our hotel... Once aboard the cruise ship we got checked in and then made our way up to the main deck where we had a really nice lunch outside. I had a gluten free burger on perhaps the best gluten free bun I've ever had, so things were looking good!
Shortly after lunch they announced that our suites were ready so we were able to start the process of getting moved into our home for the next 24 days. The suite was smaller than we expected, but having stayed here for a few days now I can say that it is plenty big for the three of us. There is curtain separating the "bedroom" from the "living room" in our 350 square foot home away from home, so Jie and I are able to stay up and watch TV after Walter goes to bed. Although so far he's been staying up late with us and then sleeping in when he can (and being grumpy when he has to get up early). We got on board to find our bags that were shipped directly from Austin were already waiting for us, which was quite a relief, as they had all of our formal clothing and our Antarctica gear.
After getting settled in we explored the ship a bit, targeting the spa for our initial tour. While on the tour they took us through the serenity room, complete with heated recliners and multiple steam rooms. It is only open to those undergoing treatments and to 20 couples who buy a pass for the entire cruise. Once we confirmed that Walter was allowed to attend with us, we purchased our own pass to the serenity room so that we can go there to relax after all of our excursions. And we've already put it to good use: I had a fantastic 40 minute nap in a recliner and after my workout had a very zen time in both the herbal and regular steam rooms. Hey, if you're going to come on a cruise like this you might as well go all in. And I think that steam room will really come in handy after spending time on the driest continent on earth.
After touring the spa Walter was hungry so we made our way to the Seabourn Square, which is a bit of a coffee shop/meeting place/internet cafe/sales office on the cruise ship. While there I found the director of the onshore expeditions and asked him about the incredible day trip they have to Torres del Paine, an amazing but remote location within Patagonia. They only had three more spaces for the trip, which takes place the day after Christmas, so of course I snapped them up. Yes, that did increase the cost of our cruise by about 10%, but so be it. We also signed up for a couple of Antarctica kayaking excursions as well.
After our first afternoon on the boat our second day was a sea day as we cruised down to Puerto Montt, a heavily German influenced town at the end of the Central Valley in Chile and right in the Lake District. There was a fun formal night on the boat, where we all dressed up in suits and tuxes to meet the Captain and his officers and then to enjoy an extra fancy dinner in the restaurant (all the dinners are fancy, so I'm not sure really the difference on the formal nights). Walter got to meeting the Captain and might even get a bridge tour later in the trip!
We did a full day tour of Puerto Montt and the surrounding area, which was interesting but it tended to be long drives interspersed with short hikes, whereas I would prefer one or two long hikes instead. But so it goes. We did have a really good lunch of fresh, local fish at a local restaurant. Then we moved about 80 miles south overnight, spending another day ashore at Castro, the main town on the island of Chiloe. Castro was very different than Puerto Montt, established 300 years earlier and with heavy Spanish influence as opposed to German. We walked around the town and saw the distinctive palafito structures, built on stilts right over the water, as well as the all-wood church at the center of town. The churches are the main attraction in Castro and actually form a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site in and of themselves, but we contented ourselves with just the one.
One of our best moments on the day occurred as we were lined up to take the tender, which is when they use the life boats to transport you to shore for locations where the cruise ship itself can't come in. Another passenger, a 70 year old man from Australia, introduced himself to Walter (he could care less about Jie and me) and spent the next few minutes on the floor with Walter making paper airplanes out of his itinerary for the day. It was a really touching moment and Walter has spent the day playing with that airplane and one they made in the tender on the way back. We were a bit nervous about coming on this cruise ship, as this cruise line is not known as child friendly and there are stories about guests having low tolerance for kids. But as you can see, our experience couldn't be further from that reputation, as staff and guests alike have treated Walter wonderfully. Walter has been incredibly well behaved throughout the trip, so he's certainly done his part.
From here we have two more days at sea, in apparently rough conditions (4-5 meter swells), and then we stop at Punta Arenas, our last stop in Chile.