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Brazil Part 2 Recife and Natal

 Brazil Part 2 – Recife and Natal, Brazil

 

March 3, 2023 – Recife

 

After 2 days at sea we arrived at Recife, one of the ports we had been at in 2008.  Many guests went to the colonial town of Olinda, which Miriam had visited on that earlier visit.  Olinda sits on a hill some 9 KM from Recife, which sits at sea level with one of the longest urban beaches in the world.  We had planned to spend some time on the beach, but the transfers to the beach we cancelled due to safety and congestion concerns by the shoreside tour operator.  By the time the ship docked the temperature and humidity were both out of sight.

 

Instead, Patrick rode the shuttle into the Casa da Cultura in the old city where many handicrafts were for sale.  Walking around the immediate neighborhood with many abandoned buildings, crumbling sidewalks, and with many shops selling home goods like appliances and mattresses, stepping around homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and being accosted by panhandlers, Patrick decided to just return to the ship.

 

Interior of Casa da Cultura

An actual phone booth in ceramic hat

Recife is known for dolls

Typical street scene

Some of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks

Colonial era theater

 

Saturday, March 4, 2023 – Natal, Brazil

 

Natal was named after the Portuguese word for Christmas on December 25, 1599 and is the capital city of Rio Grande do Norte, a state in Northeastern Brazil.  It is known for massive sand dunes, and dozens of sandy, white beaches stretching more than 9 KM from north to south.

 

We arrived at the pilot station about 0630 and negotiated the narrow entrance to the small port, passing under a large suspension bridge across the river.  On the southern side of the channel was the star shaped Fortaleza dos Reis Magos.  The fortress was built in 1598 to protect the area from French pirates and during Brazil’s colonial period was one of the most important defensive barriers in Brazil.  For more than 300 years it was used as military quarters, administration and even as a prison.  It is built in the water and is accessible via a pedestrian path.  The name come from the statues of the Biblical Magi at the fort entrance.

 

Suspension bridge across harbor entrance at Natal

White fortress at harbor entrance – Natal

Local fishing boats

High tide at the beach

Yak Beach at Natal

The courtesy shuttle dropped us at a local handicraft market across the street from one of the city beaches, called Yak beach.  We had intended to walk around town but were advised to stay out on the beach side as the interior roads were not considered safe for tourists.

The beaches were a mix of tidal pools protected by a coral reef and sections open to the surf.  The surf was fairly high, the wind brisk and the temperatures HOT, but the wind did moderate the high temperatures.  At high tide the beach nearly disappears and the vendor carts struggled in the wet sand at water’s edge.

Later that afternoon we had a folkloric show around the pool by local entertainers performing traditional dances.


 

Natal is also home to the worlds largest cashew tree, covering 8,000 square meters and producing more than 60,000 cashews per year.  The tree is believed to be at least 1,000 years old and is roughly the size of 70 normal cashew trees.  Since the tree is located more than 18 miles from the ship and a lengthy taxi ride, we did not get a chance to actually see the tree.

 

Seabourn Quest departed Natal for the three day 1000 NM journey to the entrance of the Amazon.  We should cross the bar into the Amazon about noon on the third day.  The entrance has to be carefully timed as March is known for the strength of a tidal bore known as a pororoca, which can be surfed for miles, or can be destructive as it travels at 10-15 knots for up to 300 miles upstream.

 

 

Brazil Part 2 Recife and Natal

 Brazil Part 2 – Recife and Natal, Brazil

 

March 3, 2023 – Recife

 

After 2 days at sea we arrived at Recife, one of the ports we had been at in 2008.  Many guests went to the colonial town of Olinda, which Miriam had visited on that earlier visit.  Olinda sits on a hill some 9 KM from Recife, which sits at sea level with one of the longest urban beaches in the world.  We had planned to spend some time on the beach, but the transfers to the beach we cancelled due to safety and congestion concerns by the shoreside tour operator.  By the time the ship docked the temperature and humidity were both out of sight.

 

Instead, Patrick rode the shuttle into the Casa da Cultura in the old city where many handicrafts were for sale.  Walking around the immediate neighborhood with many abandoned buildings, crumbling sidewalks, and with many shops selling home goods like appliances and mattresses, stepping around homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and being accosted by panhandlers, Patrick decided to just return to the ship.

 

Interior of Casa da Cultura

An actual phone booth in ceramic hat

Recife is known for dolls

Typical street scene

Some of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks

Colonial era theater

 

Saturday, March 4, 2023 – Natal, Brazil

 

Natal was named after the Portuguese word for Christmas on December 25, 1599 and is the capital city of Rio Grande do Norte, a state in Northeastern Brazil.  It is known for massive sand dunes, and dozens of sandy, white beaches stretching more than 9 KM from north to south.

 

We arrived at the pilot station about 0630 and negotiated the narrow entrance to the small port, passing under a large suspension bridge across the river.  On the southern side of the channel was the star shaped Fortaleza dos Reis Magos.  The fortress was built in 1598 to protect the area from French pirates and during Brazil’s colonial period was one of the most important defensive barriers in Brazil.  For more than 300 years it was used as military quarters, administration and even as a prison.  It is built in the water and is accessible via a pedestrian path.  The name come from the statues of the Biblical Magi at the fort entrance.

 

Suspension bridge across harbor entrance at Natal

White fortress at harbor entrance – Natal

Local fishing boats

High tide at the beach

Yak Beach at Natal

The courtesy shuttle dropped us at a local handicraft market across the street from one of the city beaches, called Yak beach.  We had intended to walk around town but were advised to stay out on the beach side as the interior roads were not considered safe for tourists.

The beaches were a mix of tidal pools protected by a coral reef and sections open to the surf.  The surf was fairly high, the wind brisk and the temperatures HOT, but the wind did moderate the high temperatures.  At high tide the beach nearly disappears and the vendor carts struggled in the wet sand at water’s edge.

Later that afternoon we had a folkloric show around the pool by local entertainers performing traditional dances.


 

Natal is also home to the worlds largest cashew tree, covering 8,000 square meters and producing more than 60,000 cashews per year.  The tree is believed to be at least 1,000 years old and is roughly the size of 70 normal cashew trees.  Since the tree is located more than 18 miles from the ship and a lengthy taxi ride, we did not get a chance to actually see the tree.

 

Seabourn Quest departed Natal for the three day 1000 NM journey to the entrance of the Amazon.  We should cross the bar into the Amazon about noon on the third day.  The entrance has to be carefully timed as March is known for the strength of a tidal bore known as a pororoca, which can be surfed for miles, or can be destructive as it travels at 10-15 knots for up to 300 miles upstream.

 

 

Brazil Part 1

 Brazil Part 1

 

Ilhabela, Rio de Janeiro and Armacao dos Buzios

 

February 25, 2023

 

After several days at sea, we arrived at Ilhabela, on Sao Sabastiono Island, south of Rio de Janeiro about 200 NM.

 

Ilhabela means “beautiful island” and is famous for gorgeous beaches, dense tropical forests and hundreds of waterfalls.  Before the Portugal colonized Brazil in 1500, the island was the home of an indigenous tribe called Tupinambas.  These people called the island “Ciribai” which means tranquil place.  The island is now a resort playground for both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with several large marinas and many small hotels.  We anchored off of Ilhabela’s historic town center and tendered ashore for a variety of tours.  Patrick picked a 4×4 excursion to several waterfalls  and Currall Beach for a swim break.

 

Currall Beach

Typical Ilhabela waterfall

The water was warm and the surf low, so water entry was easy.  The beach was nice, but to get a seat or lounge chair one had to buy some drinks or food from the restaurants that controlled each section of the beach.  However, the prices were reasonable and the Caipirinha’s were good, so it was very acceptable.  Due to recent heavy rains and mudslides, one of the waterfalls was not accessible.  The historic city center is dominated by a church and naval museum and many small shops and restaurants.

 

Naval Museum

Historic Waterfront – Ilhabela

Typical Street in Historic Town Center

After a full day, Seabourn Quest headed for Rio de Janeiro, getting to the pilot station at 0230, and docking at the cruise terminal at 0430 on February 26 for an overnight stay.

 

February 26, 2023 – Rio de Janeiro

 

Rio de Janeiro literally means “River of January”, and is the 6th most populated city in the Americas.  Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site.  Rio was founded in 1565 by Portugal and in 1763 became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state in the Portuguese Empire.  From 1808 to 1822 it was actually the capital of the Portuguese empire under Queen Maria I and later her son Joao, who raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.  In 1822, the Brazilian war of independence began and Rio became the capital of the Kingdom of Brazil until 1889 and then the capital of the Republic of Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to the new city of Brasilia.

 

Rio is known for beaches, landmarks such as the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, Sugarloaf mountain with the cable car, Carnival, bossa nova music, and the samba.

 

The cruise terminal is located in the Gamboa district close to the original downtown area on Guanabara Bay. Guanabara Bay is reputed to be the largest bay in the world by volume.  We were only a few blocks from the Carnival Stadium and there were still several floats on the streets in the morning from the last night of Carnival, although smaller celebrations continued through the evening.  Patrick joined a Seabourn Ventures nature walk in the botanical gardens which back up to the Tijuca State Forest.

 

The drive to the gardens took 45 minutes.  Due to the many road closures for Carnival, we actually got a good look at many of the neighborhoods of Rio.  Our route included a trip through the tunnel bored through Corcovado Mountain which is dominated by the Christ the Redeemer statue at the very top.  The botanical gardens were started in the 1800’s by the king of Portugal and Brazil.  It is divided into many sections and more than half the species were imported as gifts to the king.  There was an extensive collection of orchids and 18 different species of palm trees.

 

Jackfruit or Durian

Royal Palms and Statue of gardens founder

Acai berries

View of Corcovado from botanical gardens

Inedible brazilian plantain

Marmoset and pup in botanical gardens

Returning to the ship mid-afternoon we prepared for an evening gala event for those guests on the entire Grand Americas cruise.  The event was held at Casa das Canoas, designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1951.  It is now an event venue but was originally a private residence perched high on the hills above the beaches in the Canoas neighborhood of Barra de Tijuca, a suburb of Rio.  Oscar Niemeyer is also the person who designed many of the public buildings in Brasilia, the purpose built capital of Brazil.  After appetizers, cocktails, dinner and a Carnival show, it was after 2300 when we finally returned to the ship.

 

February 27, 2023 – Rio de Janeiro

 

We left on a private city tour with a driver and guide at 0830 and headed first for the Corcovado cog railway to ascend the mountain and view the “Christ the Redeemer” statue at the top.  The crowds were already intense when we reached the end of the cog railway, which has new cars since we visited in 2008, and ascended the 220 steps to the top.  People were pretty good about giving everyone space to get their pictures of both the statue and the surrounding hills and beaches.  Returning to the bottom we headed to Sugar Loaf mountain and the two-stage aerial trams traveling 400 meters to the top.  The gondolas’s for the aerial trams are also new since our 2008 visit.  The views of the beaches and city were spectacular.  By the time we descended to the base once again it was time for lunch.  Our guide took us to the Copacabana Palace Hotel for a traditional Brazilian BBQ at the Churrascaria Palace, located across the street from the hotel just off the beach.  Here they bring around skewers of meats and for a fixed price you can eat as much of the different steaks, chicken, fish, sausages and other cuts of meat, as well as enjoying an extensive buffets of salads, other hot dishes and desserts.

 

Christ the Redeemer statue

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Following lunch we walked across the street to Copacabana beach and enjoyed the scenery before heading back to the ship, stopping for photos at several cathedrals and the very modern science museum close to the ship.  The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the home church that spurred the construction of the Christ the Redeemer statue.  We were unable to enter any museums since all museums in Rio are closed on Mondays.

Famous wavy sidewalk at Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

 

The ship departed Rio at 2100, passing by Sugar Loaf and the domestic airport in near darkness, heading back out into the South Atlantic ocean for our next stop in the morning.

 

Departing Rio at night close to Sugar Loaf

February 28, 2023 – Armacao dos Buzios

 

This small but upscale community stretches some 8 KM along the shore, with many beaches and small bays.  The former fishing village of Buzios became a favored destination for jet-setters with the visit of Bridgett Bardot in the 1960’s.  In the past the village was a focal point for slave traders, Portuguese and French pirates.  Today Buzios is one of the most charming destinations in the Brazil.

 

Seabourn Quest anchored about ¾ NM off the main harbor, filled with boats on moorings, and began tender operations shortly after 0800.  Patrick did a kayak tour, a real change from Antarctica and the Falklands since we could wear shorts, t-shirts and sandals with just a kayak vest rather than suit up in a dry suit.  We took a zodiac ride to a beach several KM west of town and entered the kayaks from the zodiacs.  Our route took us along the beaches back towards the main harbor, with birds, sea turtles, snorkelers, divers, water taxis, swimmers and an amazing variety of swimwear on the beach including what only be described as dental floss bikinis.  The wind had picked up and rounding the points into the next beaches was a lot of work in seas up to 3 feet.

 

Kayaking at Buzios

The ship departed at 1500 with a sail away celebration around the pool in 90 degree clear skies.  The breeze kept it comfortable.

 

Later that evening we celebrated Miriam’s birthday in the Thomas Keller Grill, with a special cake arranged by Ruben, one of maitre’d’s on the ship who has been on several of our other cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brazil Part 1

 Brazil Part 1

 

Ilhabela, Rio de Janeiro and Armacao dos Buzios

 

February 25, 2023

 

After several days at sea, we arrived at Ilhabela, on Sao Sabastiono Island, south of Rio de Janeiro about 200 NM.

 

Ilhabela means “beautiful island” and is famous for gorgeous beaches, dense tropical forests and hundreds of waterfalls.  Before the Portugal colonized Brazil in 1500, the island was the home of an indigenous tribe called Tupinambas.  These people called the island “Ciribai” which means tranquil place.  The island is now a resort playground for both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with several large marinas and many small hotels.  We anchored off of Ilhabela’s historic town center and tendered ashore for a variety of tours.  Patrick picked a 4×4 excursion to several waterfalls  and Currall Beach for a swim break.

 

Currall Beach

Typical Ilhabela waterfall

The water was warm and the surf low, so water entry was easy.  The beach was nice, but to get a seat or lounge chair one had to buy some drinks or food from the restaurants that controlled each section of the beach.  However, the prices were reasonable and the Caipirinha’s were good, so it was very acceptable.  Due to recent heavy rains and mudslides, one of the waterfalls was not accessible.  The historic city center is dominated by a church and naval museum and many small shops and restaurants.

 

Naval Museum

Historic Waterfront – Ilhabela

Typical Street in Historic Town Center

After a full day, Seabourn Quest headed for Rio de Janeiro, getting to the pilot station at 0230, and docking at the cruise terminal at 0430 on February 26 for an overnight stay.

 

February 26, 2023 – Rio de Janeiro

 

Rio de Janeiro literally means “River of January”, and is the 6th most populated city in the Americas.  Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site.  Rio was founded in 1565 by Portugal and in 1763 became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state in the Portuguese Empire.  From 1808 to 1822 it was actually the capital of the Portuguese empire under Queen Maria I and later her son Joao, who raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.  In 1822, the Brazilian war of independence began and Rio became the capital of the Kingdom of Brazil until 1889 and then the capital of the Republic of Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to the new city of Brasilia.

 

Rio is known for beaches, landmarks such as the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, Sugarloaf mountain with the cable car, Carnival, bossa nova music, and the samba.

 

The cruise terminal is located in the Gamboa district close to the original downtown area on Guanabara Bay. Guanabara Bay is reputed to be the largest bay in the world by volume.  We were only a few blocks from the Carnival Stadium and there were still several floats on the streets in the morning from the last night of Carnival, although smaller celebrations continued through the evening.  Patrick joined a Seabourn Ventures nature walk in the botanical gardens which back up to the Tijuca State Forest.

 

The drive to the gardens took 45 minutes.  Due to the many road closures for Carnival, we actually got a good look at many of the neighborhoods of Rio.  Our route included a trip through the tunnel bored through Corcovado Mountain which is dominated by the Christ the Redeemer statue at the very top.  The botanical gardens were started in the 1800’s by the king of Portugal and Brazil.  It is divided into many sections and more than half the species were imported as gifts to the king.  There was an extensive collection of orchids and 18 different species of palm trees.

 

Jackfruit or Durian

Royal Palms and Statue of gardens founder

Acai berries

View of Corcovado from botanical gardens

Inedible brazilian plantain

Marmoset and pup in botanical gardens

Returning to the ship mid-afternoon we prepared for an evening gala event for those guests on the entire Grand Americas cruise.  The event was held at Casa das Canoas, designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1951.  It is now an event venue but was originally a private residence perched high on the hills above the beaches in the Canoas neighborhood of Barra de Tijuca, a suburb of Rio.  Oscar Niemeyer is also the person who designed many of the public buildings in Brasilia, the purpose built capital of Brazil.  After appetizers, cocktails, dinner and a Carnival show, it was after 2300 when we finally returned to the ship.

 

February 27, 2023 – Rio de Janeiro

 

We left on a private city tour with a driver and guide at 0830 and headed first for the Corcovado cog railway to ascend the mountain and view the “Christ the Redeemer” statue at the top.  The crowds were already intense when we reached the end of the cog railway, which has new cars since we visited in 2008, and ascended the 220 steps to the top.  People were pretty good about giving everyone space to get their pictures of both the statue and the surrounding hills and beaches.  Returning to the bottom we headed to Sugar Loaf mountain and the two-stage aerial trams traveling 400 meters to the top.  The gondolas’s for the aerial trams are also new since our 2008 visit.  The views of the beaches and city were spectacular.  By the time we descended to the base once again it was time for lunch.  Our guide took us to the Copacabana Palace Hotel for a traditional Brazilian BBQ at the Churrascaria Palace, located across the street from the hotel just off the beach.  Here they bring around skewers of meats and for a fixed price you can eat as much of the different steaks, chicken, fish, sausages and other cuts of meat, as well as enjoying an extensive buffets of salads, other hot dishes and desserts.

 

Christ the Redeemer statue

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Following lunch we walked across the street to Copacabana beach and enjoyed the scenery before heading back to the ship, stopping for photos at several cathedrals and the very modern science museum close to the ship.  The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the home church that spurred the construction of the Christ the Redeemer statue.  We were unable to enter any museums since all museums in Rio are closed on Mondays.

Famous wavy sidewalk at Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

 

The ship departed Rio at 2100, passing by Sugar Loaf and the domestic airport in near darkness, heading back out into the South Atlantic ocean for our next stop in the morning.

 

Departing Rio at night close to Sugar Loaf

February 28, 2023 – Armacao dos Buzios

 

This small but upscale community stretches some 8 KM along the shore, with many beaches and small bays.  The former fishing village of Buzios became a favored destination for jet-setters with the visit of Bridgett Bardot in the 1960’s.  In the past the village was a focal point for slave traders, Portuguese and French pirates.  Today Buzios is one of the most charming destinations in the Brazil.

 

Seabourn Quest anchored about ¾ NM off the main harbor, filled with boats on moorings, and began tender operations shortly after 0800.  Patrick did a kayak tour, a real change from Antarctica and the Falklands since we could wear shorts, t-shirts and sandals with just a kayak vest rather than suit up in a dry suit.  We took a zodiac ride to a beach several KM west of town and entered the kayaks from the zodiacs.  Our route took us along the beaches back towards the main harbor, with birds, sea turtles, snorkelers, divers, water taxis, swimmers and an amazing variety of swimwear on the beach including what only be described as dental floss bikinis.  The wind had picked up and rounding the points into the next beaches was a lot of work in seas up to 3 feet.

 

Kayaking at Buzios

The ship departed at 1500 with a sail away celebration around the pool in 90 degree clear skies.  The breeze kept it comfortable.

 

Later that evening we celebrated Miriam’s birthday in the Thomas Keller Grill, with a special cake arranged by Ruben, one of maitre’d’s on the ship who has been on several of our other cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina and Uruguay

Uruguay and Argentina

 

Monday, February 20, 2023 – Montevideo, Uruguay

 

After leaving the Falkland/Malvinas Islands we sailed for two days to our first landfall in South America since departing Punta Arenas, Chile on February 2.  The first stop was Montevideo, Uruguay on Monday, a national holiday, part of Carnaval.  Many, if not most shops were closed, but restaurants and bars were open.  That also meant no crowds.  Montevideo sits on the north side of the Rio de la Plata, first discovered by European explorers in 1516 while searching for a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.  It is considered by some to be the widest river in the world, stretching some 140 miles at it’s widest point.

 

Montevideo and the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) is also the site of the first major naval battle of World War 2, which took place on 13 December 1939.  The German Battleship Graf Spee took sanctuary in Montevideo after a major battle with three British Cruisers, HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles.  Graf Spee heavily damaged both HMS Exeter and HMS Ajax and retired to the neutral port of Montevideo.  International rules dictate a warship can only remain in a neutral port for 24 hours, but Captain Hans Landsdorff extended the stay to 72 hours.  Fearing a major British fleet was waiting for him, Landsdorff took Graf Spee out into the Rio de la Plata and scuttled Graf Spee on 17 December 1939.  Fleeing to Buenos Aires, he took his own life four days later.  The wreckage was rediscovered in 2004 and the 27 ton optical rangefinder for the main gun turrets was recovered and is on display at the entrance to the port.

 

Optical gunsight recovered from Graf Spee

Montevideo is home to nearly half of the 3.5 million population of Uruguay, which became an independent nation in 1828.  Uruguay maintains strong ties with the UK, France and Italy.

 

The ship docks within walking distance of the central plaza in the old town so we were able to see many of the important sights without participating in a tour.

 

Most of the way from the port to the central plaza is closed to traffic and is a pedestrian walkway for about one mile from the port to the Plaza Independencia, or Independence Square, dominated by a large monument to General Jose Artigas (1764-1850), one of the political founders and heroes of Uruguay and the Rio de la Plata region.  The monument stands atop his mausoleum.  Along the way are several more plazas, a large cathedral and an imposing opera house.  Many of the older buildings are in ornate art deco style from early in the 1900’s.  Like many cities, there is graffiti and wall paintings everywhere.

 

Plaza Independencia

Produce Market

Main cathedral – Montevideo

Wall paintings and art deco 

Opera House

Monument and mausoleum to General Artigas in Independence Plaza

Derelict Fishing Vessels – Montevideo Harbor

The harbor is still home to many derelict fishing vessels, less than we saw in 2016.

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

After an overnight crossing of the Rio de la Plata, Seabourn Quest docked in Buenos Aires and by 0900 we were meeting the car, driver and guide that had been prearranged for us.  After a driving tour of some of the 26 neighborhoods which make up the city, as well as a shopping stop, we arrived at La Brigada restaurant in the San Telmo neighborhood.  La Brigada is famous for steaks that can be cut with a spoon.  There we met with two of Patrick’s classmates from the Stanford Sloan program who we had not seen since 2016 in Buenos Aires.  We reconnected during a leisurely delicious lunch, sampling several varieties of Argentine steaks.

Following lunch we returned to the port at 1600 and the ship sailed at 1700 for Punta del Este, Uruguay, our next destination.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 – Punta del Este, Uruguay

 

Punta del Este is both a city and municipality on the eastern tip of the Rio de la Plata, and is known as the Monaco of the South.  The year round population is only about 10,000, but that number triples during the summer season.  There are broad beaches, sculptures such as La Mano (or Los Dedos) on Playa Brava, many fine restaurants and a bustling but compact city center.  The city hosts music festivals, whale sightseeing and international education conferences.

 

Seabourn Quest anchored 2 miles from a large marina close to Isla Gorriti and we were tendered ashore. Isla Gorritti is now a playground for yachts, sheltered from the Atlantic Swells, but was a pirate stronghold in the 16th century.  The city is easy to walk around and nothing of interest was more than 2 miles away.  Patrick walked along the beachfront, past El Faro, the lighthouse, passing several of the busy beaches before reaching Los Dedos (or La Mano – the hand) which won an international award for sculpture in 1982.

Memorial to HMS Ajax 
Beaches in Punta del Este
El Faro lighthouse

Los Dedos or la Mano sculpture

Marina and fishing boats at Punta del Este

Private houses on the waterfront 

 

After an interesting, but warm day, with temperatures reaching 86 degrees, we weighed anchor and set out into the Atlantic, heading for our first Brazilian port of call, Ilhabela on San Sebastiao Island.

  

Argentina and Uruguay

Uruguay and Argentina

 

Monday, February 20, 2023 – Montevideo, Uruguay

 

After leaving the Falkland/Malvinas Islands we sailed for two days to our first landfall in South America since departing Punta Arenas, Chile on February 2.  The first stop was Montevideo, Uruguay on Monday, a national holiday, part of Carnaval.  Many, if not most shops were closed, but restaurants and bars were open.  That also meant no crowds.  Montevideo sits on the north side of the Rio de la Plata, first discovered by European explorers in 1516 while searching for a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.  It is considered by some to be the widest river in the world, stretching some 140 miles at it’s widest point.

 

Montevideo and the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) is also the site of the first major naval battle of World War 2, which took place on 13 December 1939.  The German Battleship Graf Spee took sanctuary in Montevideo after a major battle with three British Cruisers, HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles.  Graf Spee heavily damaged both HMS Exeter and HMS Ajax and retired to the neutral port of Montevideo.  International rules dictate a warship can only remain in a neutral port for 24 hours, but Captain Hans Landsdorff extended the stay to 72 hours.  Fearing a major British fleet was waiting for him, Landsdorff took Graf Spee out into the Rio de la Plata and scuttled Graf Spee on 17 December 1939.  Fleeing to Buenos Aires, he took his own life four days later.  The wreckage was rediscovered in 2004 and the 27 ton optical rangefinder for the main gun turrets was recovered and is on display at the entrance to the port.

 

Optical gunsight recovered from Graf Spee

Montevideo is home to nearly half of the 3.5 million population of Uruguay, which became an independent nation in 1828.  Uruguay maintains strong ties with the UK, France and Italy.

 

The ship docks within walking distance of the central plaza in the old town so we were able to see many of the important sights without participating in a tour.

 

Most of the way from the port to the central plaza is closed to traffic and is a pedestrian walkway for about one mile from the port to the Plaza Independencia, or Independence Square, dominated by a large monument to General Jose Artigas (1764-1850), one of the political founders and heroes of Uruguay and the Rio de la Plata region.  The monument stands atop his mausoleum.  Along the way are several more plazas, a large cathedral and an imposing opera house.  Many of the older buildings are in ornate art deco style from early in the 1900’s.  Like many cities, there is graffiti and wall paintings everywhere.

 

Plaza Independencia

Produce Market

Main cathedral – Montevideo

Wall paintings and art deco 

Opera House

Monument and mausoleum to General Artigas in Independence Plaza

Derelict Fishing Vessels – Montevideo Harbor

The harbor is still home to many derelict fishing vessels, less than we saw in 2016.

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

After an overnight crossing of the Rio de la Plata, Seabourn Quest docked in Buenos Aires and by 0900 we were meeting the car, driver and guide that had been prearranged for us.  After a driving tour of some of the 26 neighborhoods which make up the city, as well as a shopping stop, we arrived at La Brigada restaurant in the San Telmo neighborhood.  La Brigada is famous for steaks that can be cut with a spoon.  There we met with two of Patrick’s classmates from the Stanford Sloan program who we had not seen since 2016 in Buenos Aires.  We reconnected during a leisurely delicious lunch, sampling several varieties of Argentine steaks.

Following lunch we returned to the port at 1600 and the ship sailed at 1700 for Punta del Este, Uruguay, our next destination.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 – Punta del Este, Uruguay

 

Punta del Este is both a city and municipality on the eastern tip of the Rio de la Plata, and is known as the Monaco of the South.  The year round population is only about 10,000, but that number triples during the summer season.  There are broad beaches, sculptures such as La Mano (or Los Dedos) on Playa Brava, many fine restaurants and a bustling but compact city center.  The city hosts music festivals, whale sightseeing and international education conferences.

 

Seabourn Quest anchored 2 miles from a large marina close to Isla Gorriti and we were tendered ashore. Isla Gorritti is now a playground for yachts, sheltered from the Atlantic Swells, but was a pirate stronghold in the 16th century.  The city is easy to walk around and nothing of interest was more than 2 miles away.  Patrick walked along the beachfront, past El Faro, the lighthouse, passing several of the busy beaches before reaching Los Dedos (or La Mano – the hand) which won an international award for sculpture in 1982.

Memorial to HMS Ajax 
Beaches in Punta del Este
El Faro lighthouse

Los Dedos or la Mano sculpture

Marina and fishing boats at Punta del Este

Private houses on the waterfront 

 

After an interesting, but warm day, with temperatures reaching 86 degrees, we weighed anchor and set out into the Atlantic, heading for our first Brazilian port of call, Ilhabela on San Sebastiao Island.

  

Falkland Islands

 Falkland Islands

 

The Falklands Islands are an archipelago off the southern tip of South America.  There are more than 740 islands, most of them uninhabited.  The population is less than 4,000, with more than half in the capital, Port Stanley.  Since there are so few people, many species of animals, mainly seabirds, breed on the islands.  The total land area is about 4500 square miles, most on East and West Falkland Islands.  The Falklands are a windy environment, with poor soil and few native trees, mostly low shrubs.  However, oil and gas have been discovered, but the cost of extraction compared to the price of oil has not justified exploitation to date.  Also, there is a water shortage on the islands, barely enough to support the current population.  There are some sheep farms, producing high quality wool and meat, but the sheep require more than double the acreage per sheep compared to other sheep producing areas, so it is not a large industry.

 

The isolation of the islands, and ongoing disputes over sovereignty between Argentina and the UK, including the infamous 74 day war in 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands, but were ultimately defeated by the UK, means there are few flights, only one per week at the current time.  The flight is staged out of Chile, since Argentina will not allow flights from Argentina to the Falkland Islands and sometimes flights to there are denied entry into Argentinian airspace.

 

Our reasons for stopping in the Falkland Islands included more wildlife encounters, with several new species of penguins possible, other species of seabirds, touring the city of Port Stanley, a little piece of Britain overseas, and learning about the history, including european discoveries and claims, settlements and ultimately disputes over who owns the archipelago.

 

Thursday, February 16, 2023 – Port Stanley

 

After two days at seas, with some rough seas and high winds, Seabourn Quest entered the anchorage off of Port Stanley at 0700 and anchored about one mile from the tender dock.  The inner harbor is too small for our ship, so were tendered in by the ship’s tenders.  Clearance took some time, so shore excursions were all delayed.  Miriam elected to remain on board while Patrick went on a 7 hour wildlife encounter via 4×4 vehicles.

 

The encounter took place at Seal Bay, on the north coast of East Falkland Island.  After a one hour drive we headed off road in seven 4×4 vehicles containing either 3 or 4 passengers.  The terrain was across extensive peat bogs and even across shallow lakes until we reached the cliffs along the coast.  Our first stop provided views of Rockhopper Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, Upland Geese, Caracara’s and Skuas.  The second stop was down on the beach where we visited a Gentoo Penguin colony and had a snack before heading back to the ship.  Due to the clearance delays and the length of the tour, we barely made the last scheduled tender back to the ship, so had limited views of Port Stanley.

 

Lonely Gentoo penguin chick on beach

Imperial Cormorant Chick being fed by parent

Rockhopper Penguin

Friday, February 17, 2023 – New Island

 

New Island is a nature conservancy on the far western edge of the archipelago.  It is home to more than 40 species of birds.   Seabourn Quest anchored in one of the eastern bays, sheltered from the wind and commenced operations at 0730, with both Zodiac tours ashore and kayaking.  Patrick went kayaking, seeing Magellanic Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, Peale’s Dolphins, Giant Southern Petrels, Prions, Caracara’s, and an abandoned whaling station and the group was even followed by an Elephant Seal.  Following the Kayak tour, the zodiac trip ashore to a beautiful sandy beach followed a 1 kilometer marked path to an incredible Black Browed Albatross rookery, with many young chicks.  Mixed in with the albatrosses were more Rockhopper Penguins, Caracara’s, Peregrine Falcons and several species of Shags, more Upland Geese and several other bird species such as Thrushes, Prions and Kelp Geese,

Black Browed Albatross Chick

Wreck on Beach at New Island

Rockhopper Penguin – New Island

Upland Geese – New Island

Rockhopper Penguin – New Island

Caracara – New Island

Albatross Chick – New Island

Kelp Goose – New Island

Kelp Gull – New Island

 

By noon everyone who wanted to go ashore had done so, the anchor was weighed and we set course for the 1000 NM voyage to Montevideo, Uruguay.  As we left, there were dozens of Sei whales close to the ship, more dolphins and many Southern Fur Seals.  

 

 

 

 

Falkland Islands

 Falkland Islands

 

The Falklands Islands are an archipelago off the southern tip of South America.  There are more than 740 islands, most of them uninhabited.  The population is less than 4,000, with more than half in the capital, Port Stanley.  Since there are so few people, many species of animals, mainly seabirds, breed on the islands.  The total land area is about 4500 square miles, most on East and West Falkland Islands.  The Falklands are a windy environment, with poor soil and few native trees, mostly low shrubs.  However, oil and gas have been discovered, but the cost of extraction compared to the price of oil has not justified exploitation to date.  Also, there is a water shortage on the islands, barely enough to support the current population.  There are some sheep farms, producing high quality wool and meat, but the sheep require more than double the acreage per sheep compared to other sheep producing areas, so it is not a large industry.

 

The isolation of the islands, and ongoing disputes over sovereignty between Argentina and the UK, including the infamous 74 day war in 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands, but were ultimately defeated by the UK, means there are few flights, only one per week at the current time.  The flight is staged out of Chile, since Argentina will not allow flights from Argentina to the Falkland Islands and sometimes flights to there are denied entry into Argentinian airspace.

 

Our reasons for stopping in the Falkland Islands included more wildlife encounters, with several new species of penguins possible, other species of seabirds, touring the city of Port Stanley, a little piece of Britain overseas, and learning about the history, including european discoveries and claims, settlements and ultimately disputes over who owns the archipelago.

 

Thursday, February 16, 2023 – Port Stanley

 

After two days at seas, with some rough seas and high winds, Seabourn Quest entered the anchorage off of Port Stanley at 0700 and anchored about one mile from the tender dock.  The inner harbor is too small for our ship, so were tendered in by the ship’s tenders.  Clearance took some time, so shore excursions were all delayed.  Miriam elected to remain on board while Patrick went on a 7 hour wildlife encounter via 4×4 vehicles.

 

The encounter took place at Seal Bay, on the north coast of East Falkland Island.  After a one hour drive we headed off road in seven 4×4 vehicles containing either 3 or 4 passengers.  The terrain was across extensive peat bogs and even across shallow lakes until we reached the cliffs along the coast.  Our first stop provided views of Rockhopper Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, Upland Geese, Caracara’s and Skuas.  The second stop was down on the beach where we visited a Gentoo Penguin colony and had a snack before heading back to the ship.  Due to the clearance delays and the length of the tour, we barely made the last scheduled tender back to the ship, so had limited views of Port Stanley.

 

Lonely Gentoo penguin chick on beach

Imperial Cormorant Chick being fed by parent

Rockhopper Penguin

Friday, February 17, 2023 – New Island

 

New Island is a nature conservancy on the far western edge of the archipelago.  It is home to more than 40 species of birds.   Seabourn Quest anchored in one of the eastern bays, sheltered from the wind and commenced operations at 0730, with both Zodiac tours ashore and kayaking.  Patrick went kayaking, seeing Magellanic Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, Peale’s Dolphins, Giant Southern Petrels, Prions, Caracara’s, and an abandoned whaling station and the group was even followed by an Elephant Seal.  Following the Kayak tour, the zodiac trip ashore to a beautiful sandy beach followed a 1 kilometer marked path to an incredible Black Browed Albatross rookery, with many young chicks.  Mixed in with the albatrosses were more Rockhopper Penguins, Caracara’s, Peregrine Falcons and several species of Shags, more Upland Geese and several other bird species such as Thrushes, Prions and Kelp Geese,

Black Browed Albatross Chick

Wreck on Beach at New Island

Rockhopper Penguin – New Island

Upland Geese – New Island

Rockhopper Penguin – New Island

Caracara – New Island

Albatross Chick – New Island

Kelp Goose – New Island

Kelp Gull – New Island

 

By noon everyone who wanted to go ashore had done so, the anchor was weighed and we set course for the 1000 NM voyage to Montevideo, Uruguay.  As we left, there were dozens of Sei whales close to the ship, more dolphins and many Southern Fur Seals.  

 

 

 

 

South Georgia Island

February 12, 2023 – Grytviken, South Georgia Island

 

Seabourn Quest anchored off of King Edward Point, Cumberland Bay at 0700 in windy, but relatively calm conditions since the wind was from the west over the land, so no fetch.  Clearance procedures to go ashore took some time, but the ship scored 100% on the biosecurity inspections.

 

We were taken ashore by zodiac and walked by the graveyard where Sir Ernest Shackleton and  Frank Wild among others are buried.  We could not enter the graveyard itself since the path was blocked by numerous Elephant Seas and hundreds of Southern Fur Seals and pups.  Walking around the bay we passed by King Penguins, more fur seals, and the remnants of the whaling equipment, abandoned when the Norwegians stopped whaling in the 1960’s.

 

Shackleton Grave from our 2016 Trip

Many of the buildings have been torn down as part of asbestos abatement, but there were still plenty of photo opportunities.  The church is in good shape.  There is a museum, post office and gift shop.  The museum includes a replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat that Shackleton and 5 others sailed to South Georgia from Elephant Island.

 

Whalers Church, Grytviken

Remnants of the whaling equipment

Replica of the James Caird

King Penguins, Grytviken

Whalers Church Interior

Whalers Church

Fur Seal pup feeding

Fur Seal Pups

Rusting machinery and buildings

Following our visit to Grytviken, the captain sailed a short distance up the coast and entered Stromness Harbor, the site of another abandoned whaling station.  This is the station that Shackleton arrived at with two others after the arduous trek from the other side of the island.  Seabourn Quest remained anchored in the bay in front of the station until midnight.

 

Abandoned Norwegian Whaling Ship

Grytviken, South Georgia Island

Stromness Whaling Station where Shackleton arrived on foot

February 13, 2023 – Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island

 

Early in the morning, in fog, we took up position 3000 feet off the beach landing site.  At 0830 we began beach landings to see up to 500,000 King Penguins and hundreds of fur seals and pups nestled in the Tussock Grass.  The beach landing was exciting and to walk among that many birds in a single colony stretching up into the hills and extending for miles along the beach was amazing, as was the noise and the smell. There were also giant petrels and Skuas looking for weak or small chicks to feast on.  Also several Blue Eyed Shags flew by.  Even with the low visibility and rain, it was truly stunning.

 

Part of the massive King Penguin Colony


Patrick had hoped to kayak here, but his excursion was cancelled due to low visibility.

 

By 1700 everyone who wanted to go ashore had done so, so all the zodiacs were recovered and we set sail for the Falkland Islands, a distance of approximately 740 NM.

  

South Georgia Island

February 12, 2023 – Grytviken, South Georgia Island

 

Seabourn Quest anchored off of King Edward Point, Cumberland Bay at 0700 in windy, but relatively calm conditions since the wind was from the west over the land, so no fetch.  Clearance procedures to go ashore took some time, but the ship scored 100% on the biosecurity inspections.

 

We were taken ashore by zodiac and walked by the graveyard where Sir Ernest Shackleton and  Frank Wild among others are buried.  We could not enter the graveyard itself since the path was blocked by numerous Elephant Seas and hundreds of Southern Fur Seals and pups.  Walking around the bay we passed by King Penguins, more fur seals, and the remnants of the whaling equipment, abandoned when the Norwegians stopped whaling in the 1960’s.

 

Shackleton Grave from our 2016 Trip

Many of the buildings have been torn down as part of asbestos abatement, but there were still plenty of photo opportunities.  The church is in good shape.  There is a museum, post office and gift shop.  The museum includes a replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat that Shackleton and 5 others sailed to South Georgia from Elephant Island.

 

Whalers Church, Grytviken

Remnants of the whaling equipment

Replica of the James Caird

King Penguins, Grytviken

Whalers Church Interior

Whalers Church

Fur Seal pup feeding

Fur Seal Pups

Rusting machinery and buildings

Following our visit to Grytviken, the captain sailed a short distance up the coast and entered Stromness Harbor, the site of another abandoned whaling station.  This is the station that Shackleton arrived at with two others after the arduous trek from the other side of the island.  Seabourn Quest remained anchored in the bay in front of the station until midnight.

 

Abandoned Norwegian Whaling Ship

Grytviken, South Georgia Island

Stromness Whaling Station where Shackleton arrived on foot

February 13, 2023 – Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island

 

Early in the morning, in fog, we took up position 3000 feet off the beach landing site.  At 0830 we began beach landings to see up to 500,000 King Penguins and hundreds of fur seals and pups nestled in the Tussock Grass.  The beach landing was exciting and to walk among that many birds in a single colony stretching up into the hills and extending for miles along the beach was amazing, as was the noise and the smell. There were also giant petrels and Skuas looking for weak or small chicks to feast on.  Also several Blue Eyed Shags flew by.  Even with the low visibility and rain, it was truly stunning.

 

Part of the massive King Penguin Colony


Patrick had hoped to kayak here, but his excursion was cancelled due to low visibility.

 

By 1700 everyone who wanted to go ashore had done so, so all the zodiacs were recovered and we set sail for the Falkland Islands, a distance of approximately 740 NM.