Antarctica and Patagonia: An Adventure on the Seabourn Quest – Part I

I have dreamed of exploring Antarctica and Patagonia for over fifty years.  For me (and doesn’t this sound like it these articles are going to be personal?) capturing photographs of penguins or thinking about the failures of Shackleton are not the things that have inspired me, though are of interest.  For me it is about what is happening under the ice and in the deep water. 

You see, I have always loved marine biology.  The third floor of my parents’ home was ringed with my aquariums (fresh and salt water), I have a honors degree in biology (with my honors thesis being riveting reading (to no one):  “Macrophage Movement in the Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens, with Additional Histological Observations”), took courses at the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium, worked at the International Oceanographic Foundation, and was a biological aid for the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration).  I also spent untold hours birdwatching sitting in New Jersey’s hot, muddy, salt marshes, wandering the Florida Everglades and now hiking around Lake Tahoe, California. 

My travels have taken me to areas that have touched my soul:  The jungles of the Peruvian Amazon; the Galapagos Islands;  the rain forests of Alaska; the savannas of Kenya and Tanzania, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and more.  But always elusive (and three times canceled) has been Antarctica and Patagonia!

Please note I do not mention “merely” Antarctica, but also Patagonia.  They are two very different regions both geographically and biologically.  However, there are certain interrelationships that I have always found fascinating.  And this is where the Seabourn cruise comes in.  It is one of the only cruises that allows one to experience, and therefore better understand, both.

But, alas, I am not taking this cruise solely for personal pleasure.  I am, er um, working.  Yeah, that’s right.  I am working!  More on that later and in other articles.

As a primer for this biological adventure, I would strongly suggest you read “Lost Antarctica” by James McClintock.  He deftly explains much of what it is like to do research in Antarctica and the interrelationship of the animals and plants that live in its waters.  More importantly, he explains in terms that are easy to understand, the effects of climate change and how there are warning signs that the interdependence of all things living in Antarctica may soon drastically change…and not for the better. 

(I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are some excellent reads on the explorers of Antarctica and their quests to the South Pole.  One of the things I am wondering about is how many guests on the Seabourn Quest are more about this history rather than the biology.)

So with that, let the Adventure begin!

Let’s start with packing.  Seabourn provides each guest with a super-high quality jacket with a removable insulated liner, a nice backpack and a knit hat.  So you do not need to bring those things (but shoud have room in your bags to bring them home with you.)

Seabourn provides each guest traveling to Antarctica and Patagonia
with a high quality jacket, backpack and knit hat
That said,  and having traveled the world, this trip started with me balancing the cost of renting equipment (such as insulated and waterproof boots and pants) with using the equipment I already own (being that I live in the winter wonderland of Lake Tahoe, California).  If you are limited in number of bags or weight of luggage when flying, it can be less expensive to leave your equipment at home as you may be hit with airline luggage fees (remember you may pay them both ways!).  However, for me, I don’t have that sort of restriction, so the decision was easy.
Also consider that traveling on Seabourn there are three formal nights and a generally more upscale dress code in the evenings.  Do I lose the tuxedo, etc. (not really an option for me)?  I also have planned some real hiking once we arrive in Patagonia, so backpack and hiking boots, light jacket, etc. are also required. (Adding to that I am considering, but haven’t yet committed to, adding on an expedition cruise on Australis through some of the more interior areas of Chile’s Patagonia cruising from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia.)
Oh, yes, and then there is the normal, “Do I do my own laundry?” and “Do I pay more for the ship to launder my casual clothes at a cost they may be more than the clothes themselves?” I always come down on the “I’ll just bring more clothes” side of things.  
In the end, having status with United Airlines affords me two 70 pound bags for free…but even with all of this stuff I haven’t used a good portion of the weight.  For me it is more about volume and how to fit all this stuff into two bags.  The vast majority of guests will not bring their own boots and pants, won’t have hiking gear and will send out laundry.  But for me: I have two stuffed bags and am happy that I am at a point where I have no desire to purchase souvenirs, and would rather focus on taking photographs and making memories.
So with that I head to the airport for my flight from Reno to San Francisco (1 hour) then San Francisco to Houston (3.5 hours) and then Houston to Buenos Aires (10 hours).  With flight delays it made things interesting, but in the end I made each connection, though with little time to spare.  And if I didn’t my only option would have been to fly to Buenos Aires on the day of the cruise.  Hence:  Always plan to fly in at least a day before your cruise.
I arrived at the Alvear Art Hotel (little sister to the magnificent Alvear Palace Hotel) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This is a boutiquey, but not boutique, hotel close to the port and located in one of the nicer tourist areas.  Being that I was only going to be there for one night and have previously been to Buenos Aires, it was a great choice…and one that didn’t blow the budget!  
My plan (quickly abandoned) was to just stay at the hotel and not really venture out.  After a short nap I changed plans…and I was out on the town.  Can you imagine me not exploring the Culinary & Cultural aspects of a city I am visiting?  Me either.
So with that, my first stop was a great little bar recommended by the hotel:  Shout.  My Venezuelan bartender (and you will find many Venezuelans in Buenos Aires due to the strife in their home country) prepared an interesting whiskey-based cocktail to be drunk through a mate straw.  (I am glad it was only a mate straw, and not the national drink.  Mate is one of the few things I cannot stomach!)
Shout’s bartender creating a Glenfiddich inspired cocktail
I followed that up with a flight of Malbec wine.  Malbec is the wine of Argentina.  There are other varieties, such as the white wine Torrontes (also delicious) , but malbec is the focus.  I was given a 2013 Moscota, an Arrogaute and a Casligo:  one simple, one bold and one elegant.
Malbec wine flight?  Sure.  Why not?
At the suggestion of the bartender I ordered sweetbreads to pair with it.  Yum!
Sweetbreads. Yum!
I was then off to Brasero Atlantico for some delicious bread, black pudding sausage and a fantastic ribeye steak.  I mean this is what you do in Argentina, right?
Why did I chose Brasero Atlantico?  Because, other than its reputation for great steaks, next door is a unique bar: Floreria Atlantico; named one of the World’s Fifty Best Bars.  You walk into the flower shop, open the door that you think is for the refrigerator that holds the flowers and instead you find a stairway leading down to this trendy bar.  
Floreria Atlantico
After a drink with some Aussies traveling around South America it was time to head back to the Alvear Art Hotel for a nightcap and then a good night’s sleep so that I would be well rested when I boarded the Seabourn Quest the next afternoon.
I headed over to the Seabourn Quest around 12:00 p.m.  Arriving at the port there was chaos…but that was quickly dispensed with as it was related to the Costa Fantastico.  Seabourn’s area was nicely segregated, so the check-in was quick and painless…as always.  Once on board I said hello to many of the Seabourn staff; a good number of which were disembarking the next day in Montevideo, Uruguay.   I also took care of my responsibilities as the Ensemble Travel Group host for this cruise while I waited for my suite to be ready.  (There are 34 guests who have booked this Seabourn cruise with travel agencies that are members of our consortium.)
I am sailing in a Penthouse Suite on Deck 9.  Seabourn has, as always, taken great care of me and also provided me with some beautiful flowers and, for me, a more beautiful pair of wines: Taittinger Prestige Rose and a Turley zinfindel.
Unfortunately just before the sailaway the skies opened and torrential rains caused the party to be cancelled.  After a cocktail in the Observation Lounge it was time for dinner.  You know where I went and what I ordered:  The Grill by Thomas Keller.  The chicken! 
Thomas Keller’s Chicken
Thomas Keller’s Coconut Layer Cake…
and a Chocolate Chip Cookie
The next day was one that I have been looking forward to since I was last in Montevideo, Uruguay.  We only had a few hours in port, with “all onboard” being an early 1:30 p.m., so time was short, but actually sufficient.  I was going to the Mercado for what I have declared is MeatFest.  Yes, MeatFest.  
Montevideo’s Mercado, located just a short walk from the Seabourn Quest, is not your ordinary market.  Here there are giant open flame wood-fired grills where essentially everything beef (and a some lamb) is cooked to perfection.  I do not know of another place quite like this anywhere.  
Montevideo, Uruguay’s Mercado
Along with two of my guests…who intrepidly wanted to join me…I carefully looked at the various vendors, selected the one of choice, La Chacra del Puerto, and sat at the old, worn, wooden stools.  There are tables available, but sitting there would have taken us away from the cooks, the smoke, the smells and “the show”.  We ordered a large beer and a Tannat wine (local to Uruguay) which is perfect to drink with meat. 
Our view during MeatFest!
To start off I ordered sausage (chorizo), but not a spicy or hard chorizo.  This chorizo was meaty and mildly spiced.
Chorizo (Sausage)
 and then chinculines (lamb and beef intestines)…
Beef and Lambl Chinculines 
then morcilla (black pudding/blood sausage), 
then morcilla (sweetbreads), 
then pollo (chicken), of  course, and 
then a delicious, perfectly grilled, “baby beef” to finish us, I mean the meal, off
Baby Beef.  Not sure how or why it is named this, but it was
We did have vegetables…if you count potato!
It was then a walk back to the Seabourn Quest in the rain, arriving just in time.  
And speaking of time it was then time for a nap.
Late afternoon brought an introduction to the large, and diverse, Seabourn Expedition Team and then, at least for me, back to lying down and watching the football playoffs before heading to a very light dinner (half a bowl of carrot and ginger soup and a small boston lettuce salad).
And so ends, at least for this cruise, the Culinary & Cultural aspects of this cruise.  
With 2.5 days at sea before reaching The Falkland Islands, it is now time to focus on the primary goal of this Adventure…but doing so knowing that when the opportunity to experience something when traveling is right in front of me, I dive in!
Interested? please call, email or message me!

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