Two years ago, we took our very first cruise and at the time we vowed it would be our last. It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy the “all-you-can-eat” buffet, in fact we enjoyed it a little too much, but we just didn’t feel that cruising was the way we liked to travel. For us, it is more about the destination. We like to spend time in one country and explore it more thoroughly than time permits on a cruise. And so, how is it that we find ourselves, yet again, on a cruise?
Since the last one, I’ve been bombarded with daily emails offering us one cruise after another and I would routinely hit the “delete” button even before I opened them, but mid last year another “Take a cruise” email appeared in my in-box and just as my pinky hovered over the delete button a word popped out and took my breath away….”Antarctica”. Well, suffice it to say I opened that email as it had peaked my interest.
And now here we are sailing down the West coast of Chile heading towards Antarctica.
As we joined the conga line of passengers waiting to board the ship in Valparaiso, Chile, we discovered that unlike our other cruise, which was aimed at the Newly Wed and Nearly Dead, none of the former were on this cruise, that just leaves the latter. I think the median age is close to 85. Here we would be classified as the youngsters. Perhaps this cruise is more for the Newly Retired and Nearly Expired.
I’ve heard it said that on any given cruise, at least 3 people will pass away. As the line snaked its way towards the check-in desk we pondered who among us, those three might be, and started taking bets amongst ourselves. The obvious were the morbidly obese (it would appear that they too enjoy the buffet dinners) and the infirmed, who shuffled in, pushing walkers, or in wheel chairs. Unfortunately we may never know who wins the bet because unlike everything else on this cruise those statistics are not published in the daily news sheet. We never see, wedged between LGBT get together (it’s an inclusive cruise) at 2pm in the Explorer Lounge and Friends of Bill W meet up at 3pm in the Hudson Room, a notice to farewell Joe Bloggs at 2:30pm on the Lido Deck as we send him to his watery grave. No, I think they just squirrel them away in a cool room somewhere, hopefully no where near the smoked salmon that I like to have on my bagels for breakfast.
Since joining this cruise 6 days ago I’ve been thinking that this Bill W fellow must have a lot of friends that they get to meet up every afternoon. I mean to say, I have about 300 friends on Facebook but they won’t give me a venue, nor a free plug in the daily news sheet, for the Friends of Susan S meet up. Call me naive, but I really only just found out today who Bill W is and why he has so many friends. Bill W founded Alcoholics Anonamous and Friends of Bill W is a euphemism for an AA meeting.
Upon discovering that our cabin on the Zaandam was on the Lower Promenade Deck we vowed to adhere to a strict fitness regime of several laps of the deck each day. Well, yesterday was day 5 of our cruise and we finally got around to doing a few laps, though it took us a couple of laps before we realised that it wasn’t just that we were following the wrong protocol of which side to walk on, (we being Aussies, we walk as we drive, on the left hand side), but we also discovered we were like salmon swimming up stream, everyone else was walking in a clockwise direction while we were heading counter clockwise.
So far the cruise has exceeded our expectations. We have enjoyed sunny days with spectacular vistas as we cruise by snow capped mountains, icy glaciers and through narrow channels and small fishing villages in protected bays. We have taken land excursions through forests, along picturesque rapids and up volcanoes.
Today we passed through the Summer Passage which, at high tide, left only a 1.2 metre clearance between the ships hull and the ragged bottom of the channel in a gap just two metres wider than the ship itself. We’ve passed penguins and seals swimming and watched Petrels swooping and gliding over the mirror surface of the passage.
Tomorrow we land in Puerto Arenas, our last port in Chile, from there we have only one more port, Ushuaia. Argentina, before we head to Antarctica. We are already wrapped up in coats, scarves, gloves and beanies each time we venture out on deck, looks like we are really going to need those long-johns by the time we reach Antarctica.