Santiago to Valparaiso, Chile 
December 20, 2010

I tried to ring the reception desk until 1 am; but no one ever answered.  Not that they would have known the answer to my question about the HAL transfers.  But at least they could have walked over to the bulletin board to see if there was a time change.  So, I went to bed around 1:30; & slept fitfully until 6:15.  I locked my 2 huge suitcases (one full of hot weather clothes; one of cold weather clothes); & put them outside the door.  They had requested that we have them out by 8 am for pick up & transfer to the ship.

There is a huge “rain shower” shower head in the bath; & I was looking forward to it this morning.  But I couldn’t find the lever to turn it on.  Plan B:  a long soak in that huge tub; which is a rare treat for me.  I went down to the Café Med for the breakfast buffet at 8:30.  The place was buzzing; & the buffet was quite tantalizing.  I saw something I’ve never encountered before….there standing prominently in the center of the room was a honey comb hanging from a metal bar.  You raked across it with a spoon; & down the honey came.  It’s almost colorless, clear & much thinner than what I’m familiar with.  I had it on tiny slices of “French” toast that had been made using a baguette of bread.  Definitely the “O” word!

I had a bowl of fresh fruit & juice.  The fresh OJ wasn’t very sweet; but the fresh squeezed raspberry juice was outstanding.  Other delicious treats I enjoyed from the Marriott’s bountiful buffet were:  roasted potatoes w/ onion, garlic smoked salmon & swiss cheese, chorizo, & a cooked to order ham, mushroom & swiss omelet.  Even the coffee comes with warm milk.  Just before I finished, a lady came & sat at the table next to me.  She asked if my name was Becky.  I said “maybe”, “I don’t know, that depends”.  She laughed; & said she was Lou (drtee from the C.C. message boards).  She recognized me from my blog; & she’s also sailing on the Veendam.  We had a nice chat over breakfast.

After breakfast, I went to the HAL hospitality desk to ask what was the cause of the ship’s delayed arrival back in port this morning.  The agent said that this last voyage had been hampered by rough weather; & they were steaming back as fast as they could go.  They unfortunately had to skip a few ports.  It shouldn’t affect our departure at 5 pm; just a delay for us that are making the 1½ hr ride to the port city of Valparaiso.  No, in all fairness, I wouldn’t be disappointed if we experienced some rocky seas.  BUT, I would be disappointed if it meant we had to skip an important port.  And down here…..they’re all important ports!

I stepped next door to the XBCI bank to use the ATM to purchase some Chilean pesos.  Then I went inside to get a teller to exchange the larger bills into smaller (1,000 & 2,000 peso) notes that would be useful for tipping our guides at the next 4 ports.  Easier said than done since hardly anyone spoke English.  But I did find a Cust. Svc. Rep. who got the gist of what I needed; & she walked with me over to the teller line to make sure I got the denominations I needed.  Then it was back up to my room to use the internet since I sill had another 1½ hr until departure.  Actually, they were running even later than they anticipated.  We didn’t leave the hotel until noon.

Lou (from breakfast) & I took the back row of seats on the bus.  Once we got out of the city, there wasn’t a lot to take photos of.  It was mostly rugged, mountainous terrain with a little splotch of farm land whenever there was a flat valley to plant on.  Although we did happen upon a rollover wreck on the highway that certainly ruined someone’s day.

Valparaiso, as far as the town goes, wasn’t what I expected it to be.  The town area was pretty big & very busy on this Monday afternoon.  My initial impression was that the area seemed rather rundown & poor.

Houses were clinging to the cliffs; painted pastel colors & butted right up against each other.  Graffiti (artistic as some of it was) was everywhere; a few of the cars looked like they came from a 1960’s TV show.  The ugly green cable cars appeared ancient; & there was even a horse drawn cart on a downtown street. 

The port area was geared toward commercial shipping rather than cruise ships.  There were shipping containers piled as high & as far as you could see.  One area had huge bundles of copper sheets, tied together in piles either coming or going from/to somewhere.  There were tug boats, pilot boats, battleships, freighters; & all by itself, off in the distance, our ship (the “Veendam”).

Even though it was supposed to be in the 90’s today in Santiago, it was much cooler on the coast (maybe 70)?  We were dropped of in a huge warehouse looking building maybe a mile from the ship; & a never ending line of waiting passengers ‘snaked’ back & forth in front of the check in desks.  I suppose a lot of people got there before noon, not knowing that the ship was very late getting into port.  So it appeared that the whole passenger load was in this one line at the same time.  They moved things along quickly; & then we proceeded out the back of the building; & boarded another bus that would take us to the ship.  I recognized a few faces from the hotel.  A very nice man & his wife struck up a conversation; turns out they are from Sarasota.  George (& Merle) is the guest minister for this cruise.  We were onboard by 3:15.  We ended up sailing an hour later than scheduled because so many incoming flights were delayed by bad weather in various parts of the world.

My cabin, (414, deck 6) is located on a hallway that looks like a dead end; but actually has an access door out to the promenade deck.  This will be very convenient w/o the heavy traffic (cause no one knows it’s here, but us).  It’s a nice cabin; but my bathroom is a little “tight”.  I immediately pumped up the A/C; because I wanted to know ASAP if I was going to have one of “those” cabins with non-functioning A/C.  There is a God of A/C as well.  You could hang meat in here if need be.  But as reported on Cruise Critic (& as denied by HAL) the cabins directly across the hall are “warm”.  They’re using oscillating table fans.   It’s a hit & miss thing on a ship that’s only 15 yrs. old; but has seen numerous structural changes during dry docks (possibly) w/o the benefit of reworking the A/C ductwork.

I unpacked my ‘carry on’ bags; but my large suitcases had not been delivered by lifeboat drill time (4:15).  Unlike most drills, this time I was glad to be hidden way in the back of the group.  The air turned quite chilly; & I was quite comfy shielded from the wind.  I guess fate meant for George, Merle & I to meet.  We met again at our lifeboat station; & I ran into them 2-3 more times throughout the evening.

I had skipped lunch; & was beginning to get hungry.  My intentions for this cruise is to NOT eat in the main D.R.; going casual all day, including evening dining in the lido buffet.  Tonight there was a BBQ around the pool; & therefore, no regular buffet service in the Lido.  As I was walking towards the pool, I picked up the scent of garlic.  Whatever it was, I had to have it.  I realized I was approaching “Canaletto”, a no charge alternative Italian restaurant.  I stopped to look at their menu; & I fixated on penne a la vodka (my fave).  The M’D said they weren’t fully booked tonight; & I could be seated right now if I wanted.  Yes, I wanted……I’d never dined in a Canaletto Restaurant on my previous HAL cruises (they’re kinda new).

The atmosphere is quite charming; & the wait staff is outstanding.  This evening’s special was osso bucco (which I love); but I had vodka sauce on my mind.  I had a small appetizer of grilled asparagus & prosciutto before the main event.  My first bite tasted heavily of vodka; & from then on out, all I could taste was garlic.  Can’t say I’ve ever had that much garlic flavor in this dish before; but it was fabulous.  I sopped up the extra sauce w/ some Italian bread.  I was in & out in 30 mins.  When I walked by the pool, the BBQ smell was so tempting.  I had a BBQ rib for ‘dessert’!
I was a few minutes late; but they had the Christmas tree lighting in the atrium at 7:30.  It’s a beautiful tree & the winding staircase behind it is draped with garland.  There is a Christmas village made out of gingerbread placed at the base of it.  Even though this is a mid-size ship, it’s kind of shocking to be standing at the bottom of the atrium.  The “room” itself is quite small; & the base of a glass tower sculpture that rises up several decks high, dominates the space.

Afterward, I wanted to see the internet mgr. about getting a break on a “heavy user” internet pkg.  His on duty hours were not posted for today; & I waited over an hr. for him to show up at his desk (dinner break?).  During the wait, I had some interesting conversations with others who were also waiting (most of which gave up & left).  The mgr. was very fair with my request.  I purchased a $300 pkg (750 mins, which sounds like a lot but really isn’t since the internet is kinda slow); & he gave me 90 “bonus mins”.

As I was walking towards my cabin, I could see a woman who appeared to be lying on the floor (half inside her cabin, half out).  I thought she might be in distress; yet she was moving around.  As I got closer, I was relieved to see that she was trying to decorate her cabin door with a Christmas ‘mural’ of a penguin in front of a tree (penguins….Antarctica….get it?).  (Great idea, why didn’t I think to bring something like that along?)  Turns out, this was Lee Ann & her husband, Bill, (“jettalea” from the C.C. message boards).  They are my cross the hall neighbors, who unfortunately have one of ‘those’ cabins w/o A/C.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I found my 2 suitcases were waiting for me.  I was so tired (9 pm); didn’t think I’d have the energy to put everything away.  It seemed to take forever.  The ship is really pitching & rolling; so I know I must have looked drunk moving about the cabin.  I noticed the cabin steward had not been in.  There was no ice; bed wasn’t turned down.  Wasn’t sure I even had a steward since there was no card lying around to tell me who he was.

I worked on photos for a while; & was getting kinda thirsty.  On the dresser, sits several cans of cola & 2 bottles of water tempting me.  I think it’s highway robbery to have to pay for those sort of things.  I’ve become so spoiled on Crystal not having to pay for water, colas & cappuccinos.  I didn’t even have melted ice in my ice bucket to drink!  About 10:15 pm I finally decided to call room service to see if they could bring a bucket of ice.  Oh, & while they’re at it; they could bring some milk & chocolate chip cookies too.  The chocolate cookies (with pink dots of something in it) were hard as brick bats.  BUT, I did have a glass of milk to take my bedtime pills with.  I read a little while; but I succumbed to the intense rocking.  After so many restless nights of sleep, I was down for the count.


Celeste and Bill said...

Becky, glad you are onboard and unpacked. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.And Merry Christmas!

Celeste and Bill said...

Becky, glad you are onboard and unpacked. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.And Merry Christmas!

Celeste and Bill said...

Becky, glad you are onboard and unpacked. Enjoy the rest of your cruise and Merry Christmas

bostonwebbie said...

I've just read your latest blog, Em and, therefore, have gained another 1 1/2 pounds!

Please have another wonderful time!!

From Phoenix;