Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cruise #11 - Some Random Observations

We have just one "At Sea" day remaining before we dock in Valparaiso, Chile, and take a private tour of Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and Santiago. I plan to write my final South American essay only after taking the final tour—probably (and, as I type this essay into the computer—definitely) after I get home. Here, however, I will make some random observations as this eleventh cruise winds down—observations that must be made before the cruise ends (or I’ll forget them!)

Cruising from Rio de Janeiro Brazil, to Valparaiso, Chile (5,295.75 statute miles), is truly an exotic trip, and considering how far we have traveled and how much we have seen, we have had remarkably good weather. Right now (3:00 p.m., March 1, 2012), the sun is out, the sky is blue, and the ship is rocking and rolling over the Pacific Ocean swells. With the exception of precipitation and fog around Cape Horn, we have enjoyed terrific weather throughout.

It is really hard to imagine what a cruise like this is going to entail before taking it. Our cruise director just informed us that the "Destination Anywhere" show (put on by the Princess singers and dancers) scheduled for the Princess Theater tonight is being moved to tomorrow night. Why? The extensive movement of the ship makes that show too dangerous for the singers and dancers in the show. I find this occurrence symbolic of what can take place on a cruise—like missing Ushuaia and yet seeing some outstanding glaciers. Cruising, like almost any traveling one does, is not totally predictable..

When I came to sit down at the table where I am currently writing, I asked the couple moving from this table, if they were leaving. They had no idea what I was saying and said to me in hesitant, barely understandable, broken English, that they knew no English. We have met a large number of people on this cruise who speak a foreign language (mostly Spanish or Portuguese). All ship announcements are made first in English, then they are repeated in Spanish. They understood what I was saying when I used nonverbal communication instead.

It is quiet in Skywalker’s Nightclub. (I have found my sanctuary!), but I have to admit, I do not miss all the activities that take place onboard (are arranged to entertain passengers), such as pilates, trivia contests, whist, "burn fat faster" seminars, golf tournaments, bingo, aroma therapy, spa activities, bridge, learn a new language (Spanish), blackjack, dodge ball, lousy movies (most of them are designed for kids!), line dancing, art auctions, posture analysis, flower making, ceramics, fun in the swimming pool, and tours of the ship. My wife and I stick to the port and other educational lectures. Our only complaint is that the cruise entertainment director, Sammi, often schedules activities my wife and I might enjoy attending—like learning certain ballroom dancing steps (like the tango)—at exactly the same time as the lectures.

Two options have occurred to us on this cruise that we can contemplate the future. The first has to do with giving lectures onboard. My experiences in lecturing could be tailored to fit most any audience, and the lectures on many of our cruises leave something to be desired! Second, we have heard of people who cruise the rest of their lives. That is, cruising may be cheaper than a "retirement home," and all your medical expenses, food, laundry and dry cleaning expenses are fully covered. You could see the world (several times), and travel forever!

We wondered as we began this cruise (and as we planned for it as well), if it might be a bit boring, or, if there might be too many sea days. We are currently on the middle one of 3 between Punta Arenas and Valparaiso—the end of our cruise. I can see how some people could be bored. Most on this cruise are readers. Whether they are up here, sitting somewhere between, or on decks 5, 6, or 7 in the Atrium, sitting in the open hallways outside Explorer’s Lounge, or sitting in the Vista Lounge or the Princess Theater waiting for a show to start, many are reading. We always come prepared and equipped—as most do—and what a relaxing, enjoyable, and encouraging atmosphere in which to read and, in my case, write. The additional feature I have noticed is how many are now using iPads, iPods, Kindles (or other technological equipment) for their reading.

We have tried not to repeat any travel destinations, and this one is especially noteworthy. I wouldn’t even kiss the shiny toe of Calafate, one of the Fuegian statues at the base of Hernando de Magallanes monument in the Central Plaza at Punta Arenas, because if you plant a kiss on the toe, it will one day bring you back to Punta Areas! Why take a chance

Seeing Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Stanley (Falkland Islands), Punta Arenas, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and Santiago were worth visiting. Even rounding Cape Horn was a unique adventure, and my wife and I each have a certificate to prove we "rounded the Horn" —but to come back? To do it again? I don’t think so! Our goal has always been to see as much as we can in the time that we have (and considering the finances we have!) then move on.

On all our past large-ship-cruise experiences, we have found a venue onboard where we can dance. It has even led to us identifying with a couple of bands, duos, trios, and one Italian singer. This cruise has been an exception. We hound one band—the Vintage Band—that can and occasionally has played rock n’ roll, but, for the most part, the band has catered to our Latin American passengers. On a couple of evenings we listened for over a half-hour and all the band played were rhumbas, mambos, cha-chas, sambas, and tangoes. There were, at times, many dancers, but those who do not dance to the Latin rhythms, were left out.

One other band, the B’Aires Quartet, plays in the Wheelhouse Bar, but it is a small venue with a small dance floor, and by the time we get there, the chairs are occupied and the floor is full of dancers. Perhaps, we are too picky, but we’ve not had this problem previously.

We are not complainers! We have had great meals—it has been absolutely outstanding every night—and we have access to MSNBC Live on the television in our cabin—usually we get FOX along with CNN, but this time it is FOX (unfortunately!) along with our favorite station—and we have been to extraordinary places—including rounding Cape Horn—so, as this cruise winds down, we can truly say that, once again, we have had an exceptional, and truly memorable, cruise.

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