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Christmas & New Years Cruise South America Style

Author: Amelia Hesson (More Trip Reviews by Amelia Hesson)
Date of Trip: December 2012

12/22/12--Valparaiso & Santiago, Chile on the Star Princess

We pulled in Valparaiso very early in the morning, around 4am. We had hired Christian, the van man over a year ago and were looking to get an early start. Our agenda included Santiago, a nice sit down lunch, a visit to a winery with tasting, and a tour of Valparaiso. We had arranged for a 7am pickup, so our group of 6 met on board at vines, we disembarked together and took the shuttle to the port immigration and made it to the arranged meeting spot at exactly 7 am. We scoured the private guides and buses looking for our sign and couldn't find Christian. We waited and waited and finally at 8am we found somebody with our sign and followed this person out of the guide and bus area and finally found Christian. He loaded us into a nice van, the excused himself to take cafe of a problem. By 8:30 we were still waiting in the van, we were not happy campers! A other large bus of folks also using the van man were loaded and off long before us. Not our favorite way to start the day!

Finally Christian joined us, apologizing for the lateness and blablabla and off we went, speeding towards Santiago like lighting. We learned along the way about the weather, politics, flora and fauna, and all the particulars of Chile and Santiago specifically. We made it to Santiago and got off the bus at a main square which was filled with all sorts of military officers and their military dogs, which were so cute but don't touch them!

We visited the large church and saw all the damage caused by the earthquake a few years ago. It was very interesting. Inside there was a confessional where the priest was face to face with the confessor, who was kneeling on an outer kneeler in a somewhat public confessional. We had never seen that. The church was beautiful and massive, with many chapels, a main transept, and lots of Christmas decorations, mangers, and other scenes of religious significance. We all enjoyed seeing it.

Next we visited the public bathrooms, which were not free and nobody would accept US dollars and thankfully Christian paid for us to us it. We walked to a statue where we were able to stand exactly in middle of Chile, kind of a neat place to take a picture. We continued to walk around the city, visiting a fish market and opting to not visit a crowded flea market. At this point we are into avoiding crowds, so we loaded back into the van and off to see more areas of Santiago. We climbed a hill to see where the wealthy lived, saw many skyscrapers and even found ashore where we bought wine, olive oil, and other necessities. In the distance the Andes loomed above the city covered in snow framing the city in beauty, I really liked the vibe of this city, it's worth a more in depth visit and hope to come back soon.

As we headed back to Valparaiso and along the way stopped at a restaurant that Christian recommended called Los Hornitos de Curacavi. This was typical Chilean food and we ordered a salad and main course that were very delicious. It was not cheap, our two items cost us about $30 but it was delicious and worth trying, I bought some Marzipan there as well and that was also yummy.

Next we headed for the winery, Emeliana Winery that is an organic winery using all organic farming and also produces olive oils, vinegars, and honey! I bought a beautiful dark honey there and waited as our group had their private wine tasting, which cost$17 each for 4 different kinds. Everybody seemed to enjoy this. We left when they were finished and headed to Valparaiso. We had little time to see or visit Valparaiso but we did go up to a lookout and snap photos of our ship in port. The day was over by3:45 and we got on the ship with time to spare, since we did not have to go to muster we hung out I. The room and read all our info.

Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile
Christian Montenegro, aka The Van Man

Sea day 12/23/12

This is the second day of the second segment of our cruise, the whole vibe of the ship has changed! Yes there are a lot of kids on board, many people complaining about kids running through the halls, removing stuff they shouldn't (like my formal night order of chocolate dipped strawberries) and pressing every elevator button constantly. Typical Xmas behavior, I've been on too many of these!

I've had a lot of problems today. They did not transfer the obc that I didn't spend on the first segment although they told me they did, I had to go around working hard to get my on board credit back, I lost my Internet minutes-- the not so brainy internet mgr informed my that I didn't exist in the system. I told him I must have disappeared with the last day of the Mayan calendar! He didn't laugh, he has the personality of a doorknob, a mean one at that!

I am trying to find out if I have a chance to make it to the most traveled lunch, it would be my first. The circle hostess is still calculating, so who knows. I finally cleared up the problems and with little time to spare to make it go trivia, and then the CC meet and greet.

The M&G was nice, we had good turnout and the CD JJ tried again to take over the meeting even though we had to pay for the mike. JJ is strange, I've never seen a CD do this at a CC M&G. The Maitre d Rui also came and he was a gem, very friendly and accommodating the luncheons I am organizing. We had a gift exchange and the stealing was scandalous but fun. Our luncheon is New Year's Eve day, should be fun with over 40 people signing up.

We have lots of trivia including Beatles trivia and other music trivia, which is so fun, and today we won fans! There is an accumulative speed trivia daily on sea days, and always a morning and Afternoon trivia game, only sometime do we have trivia at night. Majority rules is always funny, hopefully we will get that the segment, along with the various liars club games.

Finally, Bobby Brooks Wilson was on the ship and everybody enjoyed him a lot. We bumped into him with our friends and chatted about what he is doing, he has a new record coming out soon. He is a really nice guy.

Regarding clothing there was a mix of styles in the dining room, although everybody dressed nicely. Lots of nice jeans were worn, especially after an excursion where people were in a hurry to get to their tables, or just lazy to change pants and shoes. I did not see anybody wearing jeans with holes; they are not exactly in style anymore anyway! I have a lot of "not your daughters jean" in black, green corduroy, and dark jean material and wore them all the time in the dining room. I'd laugh if anybody thought I was dressed in appropriately, the again I call most pants jeans! I did see one man turned away from the dining room wearing shorts at dinner. So they certainly maintain a level of dress that does not include shorts. In any event, I would it worry about wearing jeans as long as they are not the out of fashion kind with holes in them!

12/24/12--Christmas Eve in Puerto Montt, Chile

Puerto Montt is a tender port situated in an inlet that is not on the Pacific Ocean, rather it is in a calmer inside passage surrounded by mountains. It is a beautiful place, the town itself is very walkable from the tender dock, there are restaurants and shopping close by but don't miss taking an excursion here. This is the southern end of Chile's Lake District and surrounded by mountains, lakes, forests, and rivers.

Our guide Manuel was promptly waiting for us at the dock at 7:15 am and off we went on a great Adventure. We toured Puerto Montt first and learned that this town was built primarily by German immigrants who were brought here by the president of Chile (Manuel Montt) to populate the town and bring their culture and customs to it. The town has the feel of a typical Bavarian town with wooden facades and lots of parks and gardens. We stopped at the main square where we saw a beautiful church built with the wood of the Alerce tree, a relative of the Redwood that had red wood and can grow to be 4,000 years old. We saw a lot of wild dogs but these animals are cared for, fed, and are friendly and cute! Then we drove to one of the four hills that over look the city and from there we could see the Star Princess as well as the two other ships in port, the Celebrity Infinity and one of the Oceania ships. We got some great pictures of the city and the ships, this being one of the must haves on our tours.

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