Tag Archives | Selene

Grand Americas Part 8 – Chilean Fjords Part 2

 Sunday, January 31, 2023 – Enroute to Punta Arenas

 

We were supposed to cruise Chilean Fjords today, but the Captain announced there was a failure of one of the two gyrocompasses and he was unwilling to enter the fjord system with only one.  In addition, the satellite internet had a hardware failure, so we were without internet.  The swells were running at 3 meters, so the ride was relatively bouncy, with a lot of pitching motion the entire day.

 

Monday, February 1, 2023 – Chilean Fjords and El Brujo Glacier

 

After cruising offshore overnight, early in the morning we turned back into the Chilean Fjords, heading down Samiento Channel, the principal north/south channel in the Fjord system.  The ship then headed for El Brujo Glacier, arriving at 0830.  We stayed for about one hour and saw one calving incident as the Captain slowly rotated the ship so everyone could get a view.  Heading back away from the glacier face the ship then continued south down Samiento Channel towards our next destination, Punta Arenas, located about halfway through the Straits of Magellan.

 

El Brujo Glacier Calving

El Brujo Glacier

Shipwreck in Samiento Channel

Tuesday, February 2, 2023 – Punta Arenas

 

Punta Arenas is the largest city south of the 46th Parallel, with a population of 131,000 in the municipality.  The city is an important logistical center for lumber, oil from Tierro del Fuego, a large Duty Free center, and for support to Antarctic expeditions.  The city’s main boulevards are wide and tree lined.  Our ship did not depart until 2100, so we had plenty of time to explore and make last minute purchases we may have forgotten for the upcoming Antarctic visit.

 

The weather across the Drake Passage is predicted to be sloppy, so at the last moment the Captain announced we would divert to Ushuaia and anchor for the evening to sneak across to Antarctica in calmer weather.  Unfortunately, that will cut our time short by one day in the Antarctic Peninsula.

 

Condor Sculpture In Punta Arenas

Magellan Statue in Plaza des Armas

Typical Street scene in Punta Arenas

Wednesday, February 3, 2023  Glacier Alley and Ushuaia

 

The ship entered the north arm of Beagle Channel, known as Glacier Alley at about 0900, since at least 7 glaciers line the north side of the channel in a space of only 10 NM.  The wind was blowing and there was a lot of rain, but there were enough gaps in the squalls everyone good a good view of the glaciers.  By 1100 we had passed the last glacier and headed directly for Ushuaia, where the anchor was dropped at 1500.  The wind and rain prevented tender operation initially and we never were cleared for tender operations, so we are at anchor until we leave at 2400.  The Drake Passage is expected to be rough, so the ship has handed out sea sickness medication to everyone.

Glacier Alley
This was a tidewater glacier in 2015

Glacier Alley

Rainbow in Beagle Channel

 

 

Grand Americas Part 7 – Chilean Fjords

 

Jan 25-26, 2023 – At Sea enroute to San Antonio, Chile

 

Seabourn Quest spent 2 days traversing the 700 NM between Antofagasta and San Antonio, which is one of the two port cities for Santiago, the capital of Chile.  Santiago is 71 miles from our port stop, where about ½ the passengers ended this segment of the cruise.  The same number will embark for the Antarctic Segment.  The ship is limited to 400 passengers for this segment in order to do landings in Antarctica.

 

Jan 27, 2023 – San Antonio, Chile

 

Seabourn Quest docked shortly after 0700 under cool overcast skies and by 0800 the first disembarking passengers were leaving the ship.  All decks were filled with staff cleaning and preparing suites for the soon to arrive new guests.  By 0900 the skies had cleared and the temperature rose to about 72 F.  Patrick took the shuttle to the cruise terminal and walked along the sea wall about 1 mile to a local shopping mall to get some additional Voltaren gel for our arthritic joints.  The seawall enclosed a fishing boat harbor and there were many local fisherman cleaning fish and selling them to local Chileans.  About 1200 the new guests began arriving and the ship began to get crowded as the balance of the 400 passengers arrived.

 

The ship departed on time at 1700 and headed out into the Pacific, where the swells were from the south at more than 3 meters and the winds increased to 40 knots.  The ship began to pitch as we headed south along the Chilean coast.  Overnight the swells increased again.

 

Jan 28, 2023 – At Sea, enroute Puerto Montt, Chile

 

The winds and seas remained high during the day as the ship continued south at 15.5 knots.  The Antarctic parka and boot exchange, as well as the introduction of the 18 person expedition team occupied most of the morning.  We continue to have most of our meals poolside, but now the heat-lamps are on and we are wearing jackets, with blankets at our table.  Tonight is the Captain’s reception, mostly for the newly embarked guests and so it is the first formal night of this segment of the cruise.  Miriam and I have booked dinner at The Grill, so we will miss the lobster and filet mignon offered in the main restaurant, but both are always on the menu in The Grill.

 

January 29, 2023 – Puerto Montt, Chile

 

As Seabourn Quest turned into the Chilean Fjord system shortly after 0500, it was clear with stars.  Soon the fog rolled in and at 0600 the foghorn began the two minute automated signal blasts on the horn.  The fog persisted off and on all the way to Puerto Montt, where the ship anchored off the town and the tenders were deployed.  At 1000 the ship was cleared and passengers on shore excursions lined up to get off the ship.  Patrick waited 30 minutes and the tender was nearly empty.

 

Volcano from the ship, looks like Mt. Rainier
Beginning of the new Esplanade

German architecture influence

Local Cheeses
Local Handicrafts

Local Produce

Puerto Montt has changed since 2015, with a very nice seaside esplanade with playgrounds for children, public sculptures and other displays.  It is not yet totally finished and stretches for more than one mile along the harbor.  At one end is a new passenger terminal still under construction and the other end has a modern shopping mall.  Going the other direction is a more traditional open air shopping area with restaurants, local handicrafts and local foods, stretching nearly another mile.  Since it was Sunday, the market was crowded with local families shopping.

 

The German influence in this part of Chile is apparent in the architecture.  Our departure was at 2200, since the distance to our next destination is only 108 NM.  When the sun came out we were treated to views of one of the active volcanoes surrounding Puerto Montt.

 

January 30, 2023 – Castro, Chile

 

Overnight the ship travelled at fairly slowed speeds, and dropped anchor in front of Castro at 0600.  The ship is anchored alongside of massive aquaculture farms, mostly mussels and oysters here, however this area also has extensive salmon farming.  The last time we were here we visited a nature preserve where Darwin began his observations on the origin of species so we did not visit the town itself.  Today Patrick took the tender into shore and walked up the hill to one of the Unesco World Heritage sites, the Cathedral of San Francisco, which is yellow painted metal on the outside and beautiful wood on the inside.

 

Cathedral of San Francisco, Castro
Castro Street Art
Interior of Cathedral, all wood

Exterior is all metal, painted

We depart early from Castro to do scenic cruising before arriving in Punta Arenas the day after tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Americas Part 6

 January 23 – Iquique, Chile

 

Iquique is a larger city than Arica, but still perched on the edge of the Atacama desert, sandwiched between high barren hills and the Pacific Ocean.  The city was founded in the 16th century, but there is evidence of human habitation as far back as 7000 BC, by the indigenous Chango people who settled the coastline of the Atacama desert from southern Peru to northern Chile.  Chango is one of 10 indigenous peoples recognized by Chile and there is a remaining population of about 4,000 people.

 

Iquique was a prosperous saltpeter mining town in the 19th century, today it is a popular holiday destination with a tax free zone, a seafront casino and beautiful beaches.

 

The ship docked near the old town center.  There was a significant swell which was mostly protected by the sea wall, but no natural harbor.  However the ship was still rolling at the dock, but not nearly as much as the container ships anchored offshore.  There were also a number of Chilean navy vessels anchored behind the sea wall.  This port is often bypassed by cruise ships due to the swell at the dock, making it hazardous to tie up and disembark passengers.

 

The shuttle bus dropped us at the main town plaza dominated by a 19th century clock tower and ornate theater, undergoing restoration.  The plaza and surrounding area is mostly a pedestrian mall with many pubs, restaurants and hundreds of street vendors selling stuff under canopy tents or even out in the open since there is seldom rain here.  We were cautioned against wandering very far from the main plaza due to high crime rates.

 

January 24, 2023 – Antofagasta, Chile

 

After an overnight transit in mostly calm seas, Seabourn Quest arrived at the port city of Antofagasta, some 700 miles north of Santiago.  Antofagasta is the capital of the province and region of the same name and has a population of more than 400,000.  Again, the city is at the base of steep barren hills spread out along the Pacific beaches.  The harbor is protected from the ocean by a seawall forming a space with room for perhaps six ships at one time.  The skyline is impressive, with many high rise buildings stretching for miles along the shore.  However, the slums stretching up the hillside reminded us of the favellas in Rio De Janiero.

 

Our shore excursion today includes the main Plaza Colon, a mining museum, then a 60 mile drive into the Atacama desert to the small town of Baquedano, an important rail junction with a number of well preserved locomotives used in the nitrate industry.  Mining is still practiced for things like copper and the tailings from the open pit mines are huge.  The rail lines are still in use.

 

From that town we went to Chacabuco, one of a number of purpose built towns constructed in 1920’s for the workers in the nitrate plants which accounted for 50% of Chile’s GDP at the time.  When that industry collapsed after only 14 years, the towns were abandoned and fell into disrepair.   The Pinochet government used Chacobuco as a concentration camp for some 1800 political prisoners from 1973-1975.  It is now a “ghost town” with a grim past and a tourist attraction.  The German government is funding the restoration of some of the old buildings.  The town is really grim, with collapsed buildings, barren dirt streets and no water.  Ocean Falls in British Columbia looks like an oasis compared to Chacabuco.

 

One point of interest was a chapel constructed in the prison area of Chacabuco by the political prisoners in the 1973-75 time period, still well preserved.

Returning to the ship we had a nice dinner at the poolside patio grill followed by a dance party around the pool as the ship departed at 11:00 from Antofagasta and nosed out into the gentle pacific swells.  We are  headed for San Antonio, one of the port cities for the capital of Santiago. 

 

Grand Americas Part 5

Grand Americas Part 5

 

July 20, 2023 – Callao and at Sea

 

After another night aboard ship dockside in Callao, with a tanker moored alongside preventing our departure, the Captain announced at 0800 that he had tried to get an exception and leave the closed port, but was unsuccessful.  However, at 1000 the Captain then announced the port would be opening and we would leave after the pilot boarded about 1300.  At about 1330, the tanker was moved and shortly thereafter Seabourn Quest departed Callao.

 

All further Peruvian ports were cancelled and instead we headed for Arica, Chile, about 700 NM away, requiring about 42 hours to make the transit.

 

July 21, 2023 – At Sea enroute Arica, Chile

 

The seas and winds have remained favorable and we spent much of the day observing birds, whales and fishing boats as we paralleled the coast, averaging 20-25 miles offshore.  Most notable were several humpback whales slapping their pectoral fins and a number of sperm whales, some as close as a few hundred yards off the side of the ship.

 

July 22, 2023 – Arica, Chile

 

We arrived just as the sun was clearing the hills.  The harbor was small, filled with many fishing vessels.  Our shore excursion explored the Chinchorro people who have been in this area since at least 11,000 BC.  The museum had a number of mummies on display as well as descriptions of the processes the indigenous people used, which included removing the hands and feet and putting a clay mask on the face.  There were also petroglyphs on the north facing hill side dating to 800-1250 AD, showing various animals.  The glyphs were constructed from dark volcanic rock, origins unknown, on a lighter colored desert hillside.

 

Chinchorro Mummies

Corn Grinding Stones

Pre-Columbian Pottery

The winds blow constantly from the south, so the glyphs are not covered up by blowing sands.  We did drive some way into the Atacama desert, reputed to be the driest desert on earth.  We visited some more recent sculptures in the desert and watched a folkloric dance demonstration.

Folkoric Dance Demonstration

Petroglyphs on hillside

 

Returning to the city center, we visited a local cathedral constructed entirely of metal, which has survived several tsunamis and earthquakes.

 

Inside the all metal cathedral

All Metal Cathedral in Arica, Chile

Arica is a very dry city, but still has a thriving agricultural economy, with irrigation supporting tropical fruits, citrus, tomatoes and olives and also flowers.  Irrigation is only at night and running water is rationed in town also.  We were cautioned not to drink the local tap water due to mineral content, including some heavy metals!

One of the unique flowers
The small but colorful harbor of Arica

 

  

Grand Americas Part 4

 

Jan 16-17, At Sea enroute Callao, Peru

 

Callao is the cruise port for Lima, Peru, our next scheduled destination.  It is planned for an overnight stop to give those guests who wanted to tour Macchu Picchu enough time to get to Cuzco and on the train to Macchu Picchu.

 

However, demonstrations across Peru, and especially in the Cuzco area, with dozens killed, have forced the cruise line to cancel all Macchu Picchu and Cuzco excursions.  Peru has declared a “state of emergency” in several areas, including Cuzco, Arequipa, Lima and Callao, restricting right of movement and demonstrations.  That has not stopped the people who want the current leader ousted.  The demonstrators have set up many roadblocks on major roads and railways, restricting normal movement.  The current president is the 6th one since 2018, and the first woman.

 

With that in mind, Miriam and I have chosen to cancel our excursions in Lima and may remain on-board the ship, although so far no tourists have been targeted.

 

The Pacific Ocean has been kind to us the last two days, with only minimal winds and a low to moderate swell on our bow.  There are lots of activities to fill the days and yesterday was a formal evening with a special “Chefs Dinner” with a 6 course fixed menu, quite good.  The weather is warm enough to spend time around the main pool and have most of our meals poolside at the Patio Grill.

 

January 18, Lima (Callao)

 

The ship arrived in light fog which dispersed as we approached the entrance sea buoy and picked up the pilot.  The fleet of fishing boats anchored outside rolled heavily as the offshore swell moved into shallower water and built in height.

 

We docked in a industrial working port, but there were tents shoreside by the gangway with local handicrafts.  Patrick did ride the shuttle to Miraflores in the afternoon.  Miraflores is perched on top of steep cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean.  The beaches below were filled with surfers, and one of the beaches was named “Waikiki”.  The shuttle stop was in the middle of the “Malecon”, a large park overlooking the ocean, with an upscale shopping mall built underground and down the side of the steep hill.  The mall was mostly upscale clothing shops and many restaurants looking out over the ocean.

Upscale mall built into hillside
Parque Salazar in Miraflores

“Waikiki” surfing beach in Miraflores

 

The shuttle passed though Callao, a much poorer area which looked pretty rough, with more garbage on the streets, and more boarded up storefronts.

 

January 19, Callao

 

Due to more demonstrations and more deaths, the ship has canceled all shore excursions, including the shuttle bus to Miraflores out of an abundance of caution, with guest safety in mind.  Passengers whose cruise ended here are still going to the airport and crew exchanges are still happening.  The ship’s staff are scrambling to provide additional activities for the guests.

 

Just one hour before departure the Captain made the announcement that all further Peru ports have been cancelled and the port of Callao has been closed to all inbound and outbound traffic.  We also cannot leave until all passports have been cleared out of Peru, so we don’t know when we can leave.

 

 

Grand Americas Part 3

Monday – Tuesday, Jan 9-10, 2023

 

Seas remained calm and winds favorable as we set a direct course for the eastern entrance of the Panama Canal.  Shortly before 0900 on January 10 we entered the first lock chamber at Gatun and began the 85 foot rise to Gatun Lake, in three steps just behind a large container ship from China.  As predicted, the skies opened up and we had intermittent rain showers, heavy at times, as we proceeded westward to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks. Entering Pedro Miguel lock, the eastbound lock chamber had a very large crocodile swimming around, providing a photo op for many of us.  We exited the locks around 1700 and proceeded to Fuerte Amador and the new, but unfinished, cruise ship terminal.  Seabourn Quest docked about 2100 and will overnight here.

Miraflores Lock

Approaching Canal East Entrance

Exiting Panama Canal at Miraflores Lock

Entering Panama Canal at Gatun Lock

 

January 11, 2023 – Fuerte Amador

 

Patrick rode the shuttle into Perico Island Marina and then walked a mile to the duty free store at Flemenco Marina where he found the cognac he was looking for that the ship did not carry.  The day turned out to be very hot and humid, but the rainstorms have held off for the time being.

 

The ship departs early, at 1500, as we head down the coast to Manta, Ecuador.  Tonight is also the “Block Party” in the hallways to meet our fellow travelers in close-by suites.  The ship’s officers circulate around all the corridors and greet every passenger.

 

The weather report calls for light winds from the south, favorable seas and intermittent rain showers as we begin another day at sea.

 

 

Jan 12, 2023 – At Sea enroute Manta, Ecuador

 

Jan 13, 2023 – Manta, Ecuador

 

Manta is one of the major tuna fishing locations in the world, and the harbor was filled with tuna fishing boats in various stages of disrepair.  Both Starkist and Bumblebee have large operations in Manta, a city of about 250,000.

 

Patrick went snorkeling at a nature preserve at Puerto Lopez, about a 2 hour drive south of Manta.  The preserve is primarily to protect several endangered species of sea turtles, and humans are not even allowed to walk on the beaches within the preserve.  The snorkeling was only fair, with visibility limited to about 10-15 feet and significant current to swim against.

 

This is an overnight stop and we noticed how tight the security was around the ship, with guards with sub machine guns patrolling the breakwater between the ship and a large public beach next to the breakwater.  We believe it is because of demonstrations leading up to elections in February.

 

Jan 14, 2023 – Manta, Ecuador

 

We awoke in Manta to find another cruise ship docking, the Seven Seas Mariner, which left Miami 2 days after our ship, as part of a 143 day world cruise.  We spent the day relaxing and taking a walk around town through a large and modern shopping center just a few blocks from the cruise terminal.

 

Modern Shopping Mall in Manta

Public Beach at Manta next to dock

Sunset departing Manta

Mall Entrance at Manta

Seabourn had one of their signature events, a caviar sail away as we left the dock in Manta at 1800.  We were treated to a nice sunset as we headed out of the harbor.

 

Jan 15, 2023 – Machala, Ecuador

 

Machala is a city of 500,000 and is supposed to be the banana capital of the world.  There were two banana ships tied to the dock when we arrived about 0700, one of them labeled Del Monte.  Patrick had a tour of a petrified forest at the Puyango River which was a two hour drive south of the city in the foothills of the Andes, which start only 20 KM from the coast in this part of Ecuador.  The petrified trees are about 100 millions years old and date from before the Permian extinction.  It was amazing to see the trunks sticking out of the rock walls.  Since it was Sunday, by the time we had finished the 1.5 KM loop trail there were long lines of people waiting to get in, with lots of children.

 

Machala city statue commemorating Banana harvesters 

Ecuadorian Naval Vessel protecting the cruise ship dock

Massive Pintero Tree at petrified forest preserve

Petrified Log sticking out of bank

Public Utility wiring in Machala

Amancay Plant at Petrified Forest

Large Petrified Log, visible portion 40-50 feet

On the return trip we stopped for lunch at the Hillary Nature Park, a upscale hotel and resort perched on top of a hill overlooking the banana and cacoa plantations below.

 

Machala is also known for shrimp farming, much of which takes place in large ponds located in the mangrove swamps surrounding the city.

 

Jan 16, 2023 – At Sea enroute Lima, Peru

Jan 17, 2023 – At Sea enroute Lima, Peru

Grand Americas Part 2

 January 5, 2023

 

We got up relatively early and headed to breakfast on the patio above the pool.  Prices were sky high, but what choice do we have?

 

Patrick headed to CVS Pharmacy a few blocks away to replenish the items we had left home, like sunscreen, antibiotics, eye drops, etc., and then headed to the Brickell City Mall to look for a set of Studs for his formal wear.  He was successful in that quest.

 

After an afternoon nap, and clarifying our transfer arrangements to the ship, we headed to the Gala dinner, with about 100 attendees.  The entertainment was great and the food was good.  We faded about 21:30 and headed to bed, since the luggage needs to be outside the door prior to 0800.

 

We also tested again for Covid-19 and are still negative.  Good News!!

 

Friday, January 6, 2023 – Departure Day

 

Baggage pickup was slow since the bellman told us there were over 500 bags to be brought down for transfer to the ship.  Our car was to pick us up at 11:30 and it was just before 11:00 before anyone showed up to get our luggage.  For some reason, since we had a private transfer, our luggage had to go with us rather than in the general luggage truck.  At least that way we knew the luggage would make it shoreside at the ship.

 

Check-in was straight forward, with the first checkpoint checking Covid-19 vaccination status and  negative test proof.  Then the next checkpoint looked at passports and took security photos.  The final checkpoint collected the passports.  We then were allowed to proceed to the gangway and board the ship, a long walk for Miriam since there was no wheelchair available.  By 12:30 we were in the Colonnade restaurant having a quick and small bite to eat.

 

The suites were available at about 1 PM, but luggage delivery was delayed.  We received our final bags after 5PM.  Once in the suite, the cabin attendants arrived with glasses of champagne and hors d’oeuvres and also notice of mandatory covid self test in two days.  We also have to wear masks while indoors on the ship for at least the next three days.

 The flower arrangement in our suite

 

The ship departure was also delayed due to provisioning and luggage delays.  Seabourn Quest finally departed Miami after 7 PM while we we enjoying dinner at the The Grill by Thomas Keller.

 

Saturday, January 7, 2023 – At Sea North of Cuba

 

This morning we woke to mostly sunny skies, with the wind at 17 knots from the SE and a moderate sea.  For most of the day we are paralleling the northern coast of Cuba, just visible off the starboard side of the ship.  Cuba blocks the direct route from Miami to Panama.  There is a lot of cargo traffic visible as well.  For a time we were apparently escorted by a Cuban naval vessel.  Our route takes us around the eastern tip of Cuba.  Apparently, on the way back to Miami, on the last day of the previous voyage, Seabourn Quest came upon a sinking vessel with 34 Cuban refugees headed for the USA, who were rescued and turned over to the USCG.

 

Cuban Naval Vessel escorting us

Getting our exercise in takes some time, the walking path on deck 9 is only 100 meters in length, so it takes about 80 laps to get the necessary 5 miles in.  There is a regular parade of walkers going round and round the deck.  Patrick reverses direction every 10 laps to unwind.

 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

 

This morning the winds have changed direction, now from the NE, with a moderate swell on our stern and it is 81 degrees at 0600.  Patrick enjoyed a cup of coffee on our veranda as the sun rose above the horizon in a cloudless sky while Miriam luxuriated for a while in the very comfortable bed..  We have just passed through the Havana Straits between Cuba and Haiti and are headed directly for Panama.  There are ships on the horizon, but we can no longer see land.

 

This morning we have mandatory Covid-19 testing from 0900-1100.

Grand Americas Cruise Journey Begins

 The Grand Americas, Antarctica and Amazon adventure begins

 

January 3, 2023

 

Tomorrow we depart early for Miami to board the Seabourn Quest for a 79 day voyage around South America, departing on January 6 and returning on March 26, back to Miami.

 

This long voyage has a lot of prerequisites, such as advance baggage shipping, Covid-19 testing, shore excursion planning, ordering of Antarctic outerwear, etc.  Packing for all four seasons, including the Amazon, can be a challenge, hence the advance shipping of luggage with waterproof boots for wet landings, snorkeling gear for the tropics, trekking poles for hikes ashore, hiking shoes, and formal wear for evenings on board the ship as well as casual wear for days at sea.

 

Today was spent on last minute preparations, including haircuts, Covid-19 testing, final house cleaning and shutdown, clearing out the refrigerator, preparing cars with trickle chargers and phone calls to family.  We tested negative at the Bellevue College test site, so we are good to board the ship.

 

We will also try a get a few hours of sleep before the car arrives at 0400 for our transfer to the airport.

 

January 4, 2023

 

The alarm rudely woke us at 0300 and before long the BMW 7 series was in front of the house as we set the alarm, turned off the water heater, turned down the furnace and put our bags in the car.  At 0400 there was little traffic going to the airport and by 0445 we were checked in and through security, waiting for the Alaska Airlines lounge to open at 0500.  The lounge is on the way to Gate D11, where we will board an American Airlines flight to Dallas, connecting to another flight to Miami.  We arrive late and are staying at the Four Seasons hotel for two nights so we can attend a gala dinner the night before embarkation for those guest going on the complete

 

January 4, 2023 – Part 2

 

The American Airlines flight from SEA to Dallas left on time and the predicted flight time was 3:08 hours instead of the scheduled 3:59.  Taking off pre-dawn to the south we had a magnificent view of Mount Rainier as the sun rose above the horizon.  We were warned by the captain of possible turbulence over the Rockies and he was correct.  Meal service was not started until 90 minutes into the flight.  We had pre-ordered our breakfast, but what arrived was nearly inedible.  We think it had been in the warming ovens too long.

 

Arriving at Dallas, the wheelchair situation was strange.  Miriam was shuttled from the door of the aircraft to the gate area and had to wait while all the other wheelchair passengers were brought out of the plane and then all were loaded onto a vehicle.  Patrick just walked to the Admiral’s Club lounge and waited for Miriam.  We spent about two hours in the lounge, nervous about whether our flight was going to be cancelled due to weather like most of the other Florida bound flights.  The lines at customer service were very long as a result and it took more than 30 minutes just to arrange a wheelchair from the lounge to the gate.  Again, it was a multi-passenger tram and we arrived at the gate far too early.  Miriam was a trooper and stood for nearly 30 minutes before a wheelchair arrived to transport Miriam to the door of the Boeing 787.  Miriam was the first passenger on board and walked to the front of the aircraft to the lay-flat bed/seat, since we boarded the aircraft at door 2 in the middle of the aircraft.  By this time we were both pretty tired and closed our eyes.  Surprisingly, the full flight departed early and one could not even tell when we were airborne.  The business class seats were arranged in a herringbone fashion, slightly offset, so I could only see Miriam’s left leg for the 2:30 minute flight to Miami at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet.

 

Service started quickly, with hot mixed nuts and drinks. That was followed by a meal, where Miriam had a vegetarian lasagna and Patrick had a Charcuterie plate, both very acceptable, especially compared to the previous flight’s breakfast service.

voyage.

 

 

 

We arrived slightly early to Miami, the wheelchair was waiting at the aircraft door and then we cooled our heels along with all the other passengers for 45 minutes for the baggage carousel to start.  We were not worried about the bags making it to Miami since the Apple AirTags worked well and we knew the bags were in the terminal.  The Seabourn representative was waiting for us and when the luggage arrived called for the private minivan.  It was a smooth but slow process.  The trip to the hotel was also slow due to traffic and construction detours, so it was nearly 10PM local time when we arrived at the hotel.  The restaurants were closed but the lobby bar had small plates, so we went there and had a burger before checking out our room and getting some much needed sleep.  Long Day!!

Santorini, Spetses and return to Seattle

 Friday, September 30, 2022 – Santorini

 

We had hoped for a spectacular sunrise over the caldera at Santorini, but the weather gods had other ideas.  The top of the caldera was shrouded in clouds and fog, still impressive, but not what we had hoped for.  Seabourn Encore was joined by only one other cruise ship, the Azamara Quest.  We were transferred to local tenders for the trip to the ferry terminal where we met buses that took us to the top of the caldera on a narrow winding road for a ride to the east end of the island.  We arrived at the ruins at Akrotiri, which date back to at least 5000 BC and have layers of different cities built on top of each other, like Troy, but fewer layers.  The ruins are protected by a roof system and raised walkways around the different layers and areas, different than when we visited 14 years ago.

 

Clouds spilling over the caldera at Santorini

Some of the covered ruins at Akrotiri

After that visit, we went to the other end of the island to the town of Oia, with the famous blue roofed chapels and whitewashed building perched on the rim.  Even with only two ships is, it was crowded and by now, the clouds had burned off and it was HOT.  Miriam and I had a lite lunch while waiting for the rest of the tour group, since the steep rough streets and steps were just not doable with a walker.  We finally just abandoned the tour and took a taxi back to Fira, the central town.  The taxi driver dropped us off as close to the gondola as possible, where we found a taverna with a spectacular view across the caldera, including our cruise ship.  We enjoyed some Tzatziki and local white wine while waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive from the tour.

 

Central Church Plaza in Oia

When the others arrived, everyone agreed it was time to return to the ship so we walked across the street to the gondola which took us to the bottom of the steep volcanic cliffs where we boarded a tender for the return to the ship.

 

Saturday, October 1, 2022 – Spetses

 

The island of Spetses is south of Athens and is considered by some to be the Monaco of Greece, since many wealthy Athenians have summer places and the small town center is filled with high end shops.  The are many beaches, including one right in the main town, so Patrick tried out the water, which was cooler than in Skiathos.  The town was buzzing with mopeds and horse drawn carriages since no autos, except for delivery vehicles are allowed in the town center in the morning.  The group found an open air taverna and we sampled local Greek dishes while watching the people go by.

 

Horse drawn carriages in Spetes

Pedestrian only shopping streets in Spetses

Local fresh fish market

Sunrise approaching Spetses

Water Taxi Harbor – Spetses

Sunday, October 2, 2022 – disembark in Athens

 

Our disembarkation was delayed for a few hours since central Athens, where our hotel was located, was the start and finish for the Run/Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer, and many of the roads were closed to traffic.  We finally left the ship about 1:00 PM and checked into the Grand Bretagne Hotel across from the parliament building.  After a quick trip to the Plaka for some last minute shopping the group gathered for a farewell dinner at the Grand Bretagne rooftop restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis as the sun set and the Acropolis lights came on.

 

Our farewell dinner in Athens with the Acropolis in the background

Monday, October 3, 2022 – Heading Home

 

Our car and driver were scheduled for 0715 in the morning, so we had just time for a quick bite to eat on the rooftop of the hotel before heading for the airport.  Traffic was heavy in the city, but smoothed out when we got to the toll motorway.  Check-in was fairly smooth, except they would not allow Miriam’s walker except as checked baggage, which turned out to be a little bit of a hassle since we had placed her cane in our checked luggage.  British Airways arranged a wheelchair transfer to the spartan business class lounge which British Airways shares with several other airlines.  Miriam and I then had a private lift bus to the plane and we both entered through the forward galley door. The flight to London Heathrow was expected to take 4 hours.  There was a meal service, but strangely enough it was breakfast even though we took off at 1100 local time.  That flight landed right on time.

 

The Heathrow connection was straightforward, but with long lines at security checkpoints and a lot of secondary screening, so it took about one hour to reach the lounge after disembarking the plane.  The Seattle flight was 1 ½ hours late and there was additional secondary screening before we boarded, searching hand luggage.  The flight was 9 + hours long, with lots of coughing passengers and few face masks, but landing only about one hour late.  Clearing back through Customs and Immigration was swift, we were the only flight at the time and no lines.

 

Cesme, Turkey

 September 27, 2022 – Cesme, Turkey

 

This morning we actually docked in the city of Cesme rather than anchoring and tendering in.  In ancient time Cesme was called Cyssus and had many springs and mud baths, surrounded by the waters of the Aegean Sea.  Today the harbor is dominated by a large upscale marina with space for vessels up to 60 meter megayachts, and a castle built in 1508.  The castle was built to defend the coast from attack by pirates and later used by the Rhodes based Knights of Jerusalem.  Today the castle is a museum and a venue for the international Cesme Music Festival in July.  The head of the marina has been developed with high end shops and waterfront restaurants.  The center of town has a bazaar with low end tourist goods.

Many of the recently embarked passengers used this stop to visit Ephesus.  Today was windy and overcast, but warm enough with a high of 75 degrees.

Gazi Hasan Pasha with pet lion guarding the castle, 
he was the naval commander at the battle of Cesme

The upscale marina dominating the waterfront
Cesme Castle
The bazaar area before it really opened up
Upscale shops at the marina
Ancient cannons at the castle entrance

Ancient moat around the castle
The castle from our ship