26/10/2022, Hamburg Germany, (0 NM)
There was some fanfare, as expected, for this most prestigious cruise departure. AIDAmar swanned up the Elbe River from Hamburg-Altona through the middle of the night-lit city before turning for the long run downstream to the sea. Passengers, and landlubbers ashore, waved their lights on their phones and the ship’s horn blasted out. Most of the crew, and I am honorary crew for this event, were on the forward deck, drinking hot chocolate.
29/10/2022, La Coruna Spain (968 NM),
We just had three days at sea running down the River Elbe to the North Sea then through the English Channel, Western Approaches, and the Bay of Biscay. I’ve been to A Coruna a few times before. The first time was in 2007 after a very rough Biscay crossing in our own tiny boat. I never imagined then that I would be making regular visits by cruise ship.
Today, I was arrested by Security personnel in the portside loading area for skulking around and being a stowaway on board. I expected to be handcuffed and thrown in the brig again but everyone was very pleasant about it. It was just a training exercise that I had been volunteered for.
01/11/2022, Gran Canaria Canary Islands (2,012 NM),
I missed most of the Halloween celebrations last night. I was helping to make some company presentation material which involved tying knots with rope stolen from the Bosun’s Store, and cutting up sea charts stolen from the Bridge. I’m told the charts of Cape Horn were not the ones actually needed. Not convinced.
Arrived in the port of Las Palmas this morning. I went shopping for a King Neptune costume for the line crossing. It is one of my regulars jobs these days to dress up as some kind of deity. Not many shops were open as it was a public holiday but I got a few things that may be useful by picking out parts of old Halloween, and early Christmas, costumes.
I also checked out the marina and talked to some ARC people getting ready for the 2022 Atlantic crossing. I think we may go our own way on this for our planned trip for 2023 despite the difficulties in not being able to use the more obvious departure and arrival ports, like Las Palmas, as they are booked solid by ARC boats years in advance.
04/11/2022, Mindelo Cape Verde Islands (2,897 NM),
The last time we were here there was a fire in the engine room, and we had to stay for four days until it was fixed. This time it was just one day and I spent almost all my time ashore walking the streets, searching for good printer paper for Equator Crossing certificates. There were a surprising number of stationery stores and print-shops but only white 80gm paper was available anywhere in the city.
In the early hours of the 7th, three days out of Mindelo, we crossed the Equator. Later in the morning, with the help of the bosun and the ship’s theatrical dressers, yours truly metamorphosed into King Neptune and H became Queen Amphitrite. These are jobs we have had before, and this was my fourth Equator crossing by sea. I held court by the crew pool for a few hours and baptised a hundred and fifty, or so, crew initiating them into the Mysteries of the Deep. Most had a speech about winter becoming summer etc. and a sprinkle of pool water from a toilet brush, but a few of the naughtier ones had a full blast of a seawater firehose. The day was sunny and warm and very windy and there were many Masked Boobies diving into the sea all around. Frigatebirds were circling around piratically, scaring the other birds into spraying the decks, and us, with white guano.
08/11/2022, Recife Brazil (4,502 NM),
We made landfall in South America, grabbed a taxi for a few hours and drove off to an outer suburb of Recife called Olinda which was reputed to be a nice place. Our only instruction to the driver was to go to a place called Alto da Se, which was supposed to have a good view, and the Centro Historico de Olinda which sounded like a place we would stroll around. The taxi driver was in autopilot mode and unbidden took us to other places as well, including the Convento de Sao Francisco but this was OK. Nothing too spectacular but it all looked very historic. Also, a bit run down with creative graffiti everywhere.
11/11/2022, Rio de Janeiro Brazil (5,571 NM),
After another three-day sail we entered Guanabara Bay. Many of the crew were on the crew deck to see Sugarloaf Mountain and the cityscape of Rio de Janeiro come into view. H and I got an Uber to Copacabana Beach and to the Rio Othon Palace Hotel where were taking an overnight break. The view from our corner suite up and down the beach was unbeatable. Admittedly we were upgraded quite a bit by the brazen efforts of H. After the first of many caipirinha cocktails (fresh lime juice, sugar, and cachaça) we headed off to nearby Ipanema Beach to catch a few rays and waves and more caipirinhas. As darkness fell, we got dressed up and went to the famous Churrascaria Palace further along Copacabana for a rodizio meat feast. The place has been in business for over 70 years so they have had time to get many things right although they don’t use the red/green beer mat to signal when you can squeeze in more steak. Some well-connected passengers with local guides and some ship’s officers were also coincidentally dining there. We had planned to see some Samba later in the evening, but drizzly weather put us off and more caipirinhas called from the hotel.
As luck would have it, problems with the ship gave us an extra unplanned night in Rio. We went to the Ginka Tropical samba show. Feather head-dresses and everything. The following day, it was a round of the Sunday morning street markets. It was also Brazil’s national day holiday, and the streets were crowded with flag wavers. Because of the extra night in Rio, the previously planned stop at Puerto Madryn was cancelled, no loss really, and the stops at Montevideo and Buenos Aires were delayed by one day.
16/11/2022, Montivideo Uruguay (6,595 NM),
H and I left the boat and looked at the salvaged bits of the Admiral Graf Spee on the harbour front and then went off for a stroll around the attractive but decaying streets of Montevideo. Then to the market for steak and wine for lunch. This was a an almost exact re-run of our last trip here.
This time I bought a leather and ceramic yerba mate cup, a stainless steel bombilla straw and a kilo of mate which I am working my way through slowly. It’s a strange brew but there are a lot of people in this part of the world that are obsessed by it. It’s a lot like tea but it is powdery stuff that is difficult to dispose of when done.
17/11/2022, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6,609 NM),
It was an early start to beat the crowds and we got a taxi to the enormous Cacarita Cemetery to see the mausoleum of the famous tangoista, Carlos Gardel, and then on to the nearby German Cemetery to see the grave of Hans Langsdorff, the Kapitän of the ill-fated Graf Spee. Langsdorff killed himself in Buenos Aires a few days after the scuttling in Montevideo harbour. He seemed like a good chap to me as he did what he could to prevent unnecessary fatalities on the ships he sunk and finally saved his own men on the Graf Spee when cornered by the Royal Navy.
We then had a totally unskilled improvised tango dance in Plaza Derrego to the sound of Volver by Carlos Gardel, but as the shops and stalls nearby were only just opening for the day, I for one felt a bit self-conscious about it.
Lunch was in Puerto Madero at the Cabana Las Lilas where we had excellent steak. We ate here last time we were in BA and came back as it was so good.
“Thar she blows!” After two days out of Buenos Aires, passing Puerto Madryn, we had a lot of whales around us. Some were close to the ship. It was rumoured we even collided with one of them. It was difficult to tell what kind of whales they were as the sun was bright and low in the sky, but I would guess Southern Right if I was about to launch a boat with harpoon in hand.
Four days out of Buenos Aires I watched a World Cup match in the Brauhaus. This is the German Biergarten-style restaurant on the ship. The game was England versus Iran. I knew I was the only English passenger aboard, so I recruited a couple of Germans, Joerg and Thomas, to be honorary Engländer. We sat there waving England flags after each goal in a crowd of otherwise fairly unemotional Germans. We said we would drink a fernet con cola for every England goal, but this idea was quietly dropped as the score grew to six. Fernet Branca mixed with Coca-Cola is the national cocktail in Argentina and introduced by Italian immigrants long ago. It is not a taste that travels well.
22/11/2022, Punta Arenas Chile, 7,957 NM),
Punta Arenas is a surprisingly normal-looking town considering how remote it is. There are shops and businesses that could be anywhere with a temperate to cold climate. If you want llamas and gauchos on the streets, then this is not the place. H found a wood-panelled bar in the Palacio Sara Braun which was dedicated to the famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton is not quite so famous in Germany which probably accounts for H and I being the only customers. As we were in Chile again, we started off with a selection of fruit-flavoured pisco sours in various shade of pink. For food we tried to get king crab and abalone, but the chef couldn’t serve them up until later in the day, so we settled for shared plates of mixed empanadas and some meat and seafood tartare creations. The bar also sold a special edition whisky which claimed to be an authentic copy of some whisky discovered in 2007 at Shackleton’s 1907 Antarctic base camp. We bought a bottle. On the way back to the ship I also bought some Fernet Branca and a couple of bottles of pisco just to complete our Southern Cone liquor cabinet. H had to return to the ship to work but I ambled down the beach for a while to check if the punta really was arenas.
The departure from the dock that evening was a bit hairy with two large tugs needed to pull us off against the strong wind. I invited neighbour, Joerg, to watch the tugs and the amused sealions from our balcony and to try some of the whisky. We ended up drinking most of it while telling sailing yarns and we smoked a couple of cigars to maximise the decadence.
We were expecting blowy weather overnight and we packed fragile things away in the cabin. The ship passed through the Cockburn Channel in the dark and out into Drake’s Passage then quickly back into the Beagle Channel heading eastwards.
The following morning, the scenery in the sunny, but windy, Beagle Channel was spectacular with snow-capped mountains all around and Magellanic penguin colonies perched on rocks in the water. Many passengers elected to watch the World Cup game, Germany v. Japan, instead, which was showing in the theatre. I say ‘watch’, but the location and topography only allowed poor satellite reception and small glimpses of the game between the colourful test cards and scrambled signal.
By midday, we exited the Beagle Channel at Picton Island and turned southwest towards the Wollaston Island group and the scary lump of rock, Isla Hornos. The weather was beginning to turn a bit nasty with the wave caps being blown off and some rain reducing visibility. After passing Isla Deceit we turned west to begin an anticlockwise circuit of the Horn. Then the rain stopped, the sun came out and I was invited to the Bridge to see the island in close-up from the south. As it was a career milestone for almost all the deck officers, we had a small toast in the Chief’s cabin with the remains of the bottle of my Shackleton. It was worth the sacrifice as the view which would have been otherwise rubbish from my starboard-side balcony.
We returned to the eastern entrance to the Beagle Channel and made steam for Ushuaia.
24/11/2022, Ushuaia Argentina, 8,476 NM),
It was a busy day in Ushuaia. The morning started with a drive through the mountains to a fishing village opposite the Chilean town of Puerto Williams. The Beagle Channel was very dangerous-looking with big waves, but the local fishermen were persuaded to take us out in Zodiacs to haul up some crab-pots. Each pot had several king crabs (called centolla in Spanish) which we dragged off to a restaurant to be turned into a big lunch. King crabs are strange creatures. They can barely move out of the water and their slightly spiny shells do little to stop them being broken up and eaten.
After a brief return to the ship, we had another trip to the Tren del Fin del Mundo, the Train at the End of the World. This is an old steam tourist train line originally built to transport prisoners and timber. The trip runs to the Tierra del Fuego National Park with some big views of the Beagle Channel.
For dinner, H and I went to a Patagonian barbecue place in town, called Parrilla La Estancia, that I found the last time we were in Ushuaia. They cook the meat over huge fires near the entrance to the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Malbec and a couple of pisco sours and a huge, shared platter of steak, roast lamb, and black pudding that we didn’t even come close to finishing.
Ushuaia was originally planned as an overnight stop, but it was brought forward as a late evening departure, and we sailed westwards out into the Beagle Channel with the lights of the town and a few Antarctic expedition ships behind us.
The following morning found us sailing through the windy western Beagle Channel and Glacier Alley with it’s blue-ice tidewater glaciers. Uniquely privileged, for a passenger, I had access to the ship’s bridge with the best view of all. I checked the charts and watched to make sure the Chilean pilots knew what they were doing and pointed out a few geological and geographic things to be passed on to the passengers over the ship’s speakers.
By the 26th November we had reached the Amalie Glacier. This is a huge tidewater glacier sourced from the Torres del Paine National Park area. This glacier is well-known for retreating very fast and these days barely reaches the sea. Four years ago, when we were here last, the water was full of small icebergs but now not so much.
The landscape of this part of Chile is otherworldly with hundreds of miles of snowy, mountainous islands cut with an uncountable number of deep fjords and none of it with any sign of human presence.
28/11/2022, Puerto Montt Chile, 9,653 NM),
A nice, warm sunny day in Puerto Montt. H and I caught an early tender boat to the pier and negotiated for a car for a few hours. Our driver was Charlie, or maybe Carlos, who claimed to have lived in London for many years working in the casino business. Our first stop was Frutilllar on Lake Llanquihue with views across the lake of the Osorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador volcanoes. Then it was on to Puerto Varas for pisco sours and enormous steak sandwiches at an outdoor café.
There is strong influence of 19th century German colonists, and possibly 20th century Nazis, in this area seen in the architecture and shops.
30/11/2022, San Antonio Chile, 10,257 NM),
H had a dental emergency in San Antonio which used up our early morning. Then we had a wander down to the harbour and smelly fish market to see the smelly sealions on the beach.
For us now, this (part) World Cruise is over. Departure to Santiago de Chile tomorrow morning and on to Manaus in Brazil and our next cruise up the Amazon. A change is as good as a rest.