Seabourn’s Antarctica Revisited – Part II (Desolation, Getting the Party Started and Perspective – Chilean Patagonia)

While some of my future articles on this Patagonia and Antarctica journey will be more about my in depth view of things, this one is more of my normal travelogue through to our departure for Antarctica.
Embarking on the Seabourn Quest for my second trip to Patagonia and Antarctica was quick and stress-free.  Even though there was a large turnover in staff in San Antonio, Chile and there are a large percentage of new, young and enthusiastic (but not terribly experienced) staff things were pretty much flawless.
Seabourn Quest – Owner’s Suite 601
I settled into Owner’s Suite 601.  Some do not like this suite because you definitely can feel the movement more so than if you are midship and you definitely feel and hear the anchor (and to a lesser degree the bowthruster), but the views are incredible and I do because I love the feel and the sounds of being on a ship at sea.  It is also a great venue for parties, but more on that later!
 After getting a bit organized (such as making sure my Seabourn Antarctica parka was the correct size (and checking on my clients that are sailing with me) it was time for dinner…and, of course, my traditional chicken at The Grill by Thomas Keller followed by the ice cream sundae and chocolate chip cookies!
When dining at The Grill by Thomas Keller:
Order the Chicken!!
…and the Ice Cream Sundae!
It was then a nice whisky in the Observation Lounge.  With a full three weeks ahead of me, and having done the reverse of this cruise once before, I was in no rush to see everything and do everything.  But, to be honest, the seas were rocking me to sleep as well…and nothing gets me to sleep faster than the motion of the ship.
And then it was time to start “working”!  So the morning started with my first test:  Poached eggs…which were prepared perfectly. (It is amazing how much one can learn by observing how the easiest of items are prepared.)
Nothing like starting your day with a perfectly poached egg.
It was then time to organize a number of special events for my clients.  It was not that I was planning on doing them, but Seabourn was two steps ahead of me with plans already started as if it was my annual Culinary & Cultural Cruise.  So what was I do to?  Disappoint Seabourn? Disappoint my clients?  Nope!  I gotta do what I gotta do!
With my day being a Sea Day I had plenty of time to meet with Chef Chris, a huge man with an equally big personality, but also sort of a pussy cat at the same time. And he had plans well in the works for me and my clients.  But even with that I had thought of a couple of my own, so the plans were sort of turned on their head.  (I am kinda known for that!)  The first one being a breakfast party in my suite as we sailed up to El Brujo Glacier in a few days time, a Chilean wine and cheese tasting party as we sail into Ushuaia, Argentina and a special dinner as we depart the Seventh Continent.  Oh, and there might be another surprise or two.
My Office for the next three weeks
I was excited for  the next day and ou first port of call: Puerto Montt, Chile.  Last year I had hired a guide and did a nice hike on the side of Osorno Volcano, but this year I hired a great guide, Maria, of Patagonia Trails, to hike another portion of the area: Desolation Pass.  Maria was exceptional as was the hike.  Desolation Pass did not disappoint during this this 7.5 mile (12 kilometer) hike with about 1,000+ foot of rise in elevation and 3,200+ feet of descent. 
It was a 2 hour drive to my Desolation Pass hike,
but the view certainly passed the time!
The pass is truly well named: Desolation.  But the views were breathtaking and the solitude was almost meditative.  

And we just missed the rain!
I invited two of my clients to join me, which they enthusiastically did, but about two thirds of the way through they had had enough…or at least one had.  The horseflies, larger than a bumble bee and not nearly as nice, and the descent through loose volcanic sand and gravel was a bit too much.  (Maria and I were nice enough to slow the pace down just enough so that they weren’t left in the wild!  I am good like that. LOL)
It was a long day (one of the first tenders off and one of the last tenders back), but it was well worth it.  I did miss Shopping with the Chef, which I heard was excellent, but I did sample of the cherries Chef Chris purchased and will be enjoying some of the cheese purchased in a few days!
Next up was Castro, Chile; just a short sail from Puerto Montt.  Having been there before this was designated as Pisco Sour Day!  There is a little restaurant, Mercadito, just off to the right of the tender pier that has excellent local food and, more importantly, the best pisco sours I have ever had.  So after a quick wander over to the famous stilted houses it was time for the festivities.
Pisco Sours at Mercadito in Castro Chile.
Nice view too!
As I was passing the pier I saw our fearless Expedition Leader, Chris Srigley, and invited him to join me for one.  (I am also tasked with interviewing him, so why not do both?  Right?)  Let’s just say one turned into more than one and a snack turned into quite the meal, as two more of the Expedition Team joined us.

Delicious fresh, local, oysters

Local fried potatoes

As we were discussing leaving Srigley went inside and then came out and said a couple from the ship bought our lunch…and another round of pisco sours!  Obviously it was an incredibly nice thing to do and I felt it was only proper to let them know that I was not actually part of the Expedition Team!

But the most important part of the day is to remember the saying in Mercadito surrounded by so many clocks:  “El que anda apurado pierde el tiempo tómese el suyo“. Roughly translated it means: He who walks in a hurry loses his time.

And that is a theme that I will be repeating as I eventually reach Antarctica on the Seabourn Quest!  Antarctica is not a place to rush through or tick of boxes of experiences.  It is a place to take in, to sit back and absorb, to wonder at its beauty.  But more on that in another article or two!

It was then back to the Seabourn Quest for a long soak in the forward hot tub…

…and then a Private Galley Tour for my clients with Chef Chris and the new Executive Chef Eric.

Our next two days were sea days cruising through the Chilean fjords…a place of incredible beauty. 

Not a bad view while having breakfast on the Seabourn Quest

This gave me time for my Hamburger and Hot Dog Test.  The hamburger and hot dog, including their buns, were excellent…consistent with what I have experienced elsewhere on the ship.  I would have liked to see a bit more lettuce, however, and I have learned to always order up one temperature (I order medium to get medium rare). I also noticed that the Seabourn french fries (which some have said no longer are served) are alive and well.  I did like the presentation in paper bags found on the Seabourn Encore, but that is a bit of a nit-pic.

The Seabourn Fries are alive and well
I do have to note that, after another excellent meal in the The Grill by Thomas Keller, I was dragged to the show.  It was supposed to be an “Acrobatic Variety Act”, but it well and truly seemed like a modified strip club show by two self-absorbed (one clearly being a steroid-muscled) individuals.  I don’t think Seabourn would put such a show on its televisions and would block it on the internet. I wasn’t offended, but it was so weird.
Anyway, the last time I went to Antarctica I was on the reverse sailing, so we reached El Brujo Glacier late on a rainy afternoon.  This time it was an 8:30 AM arrival.  So I arranged a bit of a Glacier Breakfast Party in my suite, which overlooks the Seabourn Quest’s bow.  
Viewing El Brujo Glacier from Seabourn Quest Suite 601
Chef Chris and Jan, the Food & Beverage Manager put together quite an event!  Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas (and fresh juices, coffee and tea) along with 
  • Mini Quail Eggs Benedict
  • Mini Lobster and Gruyere Eggs Cocotte
  • Caramelized Onion Quiche
  • Pigs in a Blanket
  • Muffins and Danish
were on the menu.  An amazing and delicious…and over-the-top…effort by the Seabourn staff!

While my guests were able to enjoy viewing El Brujo from the comfort of my suite and its great protected veranda, the Seabourn guests on the bow were treated to a cold blowing wind…that literally picked up two trays of donuts and sent them flying by my forward windows!  It was a pretty funny sight, though the loss of those delicious homemade donuts was tragic!

I used our time there to take photographs with my new 150-500 mm telephoto lens. I am “focused” on looking at things I have basically seen before from a different perspective; sometimes grander and others more close up. 

That evening I thought I would give Earth & Ocean on the Pool Deck a try because that evening both Nigerian Prawns and Peking Duck were on the menu.

Giant Nigerian Prawns

Peking Duck

I agreed to share a table and was seated with a Seabourn/Holland America/Princess Environmental Compliance official who was disembarking the next day.  We had a very interesting, if not maritime nerdy, conversation about not only what he does, but the history of Seabourn, as he has been around even longer than me.

While a truly enjoyed the delicious prawns and duck, and the sushi was fantastic

The star of my dining experience was the spicy, curried, lentils on naan bread.

The next day was our final stop in Chilean Patagonia was Punta Arenas.  Last time I docked there on the Seabourn Quest we were at a pier right next to downtown (as it exists).  This time we were docked at a more commercial pier about four miles outside of town.  This was probably due to the huge load-in of supplies that was happening that day.

I had only two objectives that day:  Buy some Chilean wine and eat some Chilean cuisine at the same restaurant I dined at last year.  Suffice it to say I did neither! 

I took the Seabourn shuttle into town and sat with Robert Egelstaff, one of the Seabourn Ventures kayak guides whom I have previously traveled with. Robert, who sea kayaked from Alaska to Siberia across the Bering Strait and also was part of the team that recreated Shackelton’s Antarctic sailing, suggested that we meet up in the early afternoon for a beer at, as one would expect, Shackelton’s Bar. 

Upon arriving in town I headed to the shores of the Straits of Magellan to photograph the cormorants.

It was then off to what is supposed to be a fantastic wine shop.  After a mile walk I arrived to a beautiful sign…and a closed shop.  (Saturday in Punta Arenas is a half-open/half-closed affair.)  So it was then about a 1.5 mile walk to the Municipal Market (Mercado) where last year I feasted on Chilean cuisine in one of the upstairs restaurants…and it was closed too!

But not to worry, the restaurant that was my second choice last year was open, El Mercadito, and on this day a waitress spoke English.  Eventually she told me her life story from when she was an exchange student in Kansas City to her being engaged to a US Marine to her return home to Punta Arenas.  I love chatting with the locals when possible.  However interesting, and it was, I was on one mission:  To eat!

I started with a King Crab and Cheese Empanada.  No, well, to be honest I started with a Pisco Sour (shocking, but true!) and then the delicious empanada which was followed by a superfresh Salmon Ceviche.

Pisco Sour, spicy salsa with local bread
and King Crab and Cheese Empanada
El Mercadito, Punta Arenas, Chile

After ordering two more pisco sours, it was time for the main event:  King Crab and Cheese Soup…though it is not called a soup.  Yum!

After lunch I wandered over the Shackelton Bar and met up with Robert and then his friend of over thirty years, and fellow Seabourn Ventures kayaking expert and legend, Trevor Potts and kayaking guide, Brandon Payne.  While I was waiting I had, well, another pisco sour and local beer.

Pisco Sour and Local Beer
Shackelton’s Bar, Punta Arenas, Chile

The most enjoyable part of my day was as a result of  Robert’s and my decision to walk the four miles back to the ship.  So there I was walking with these two expedition legends and buddies of over thirty years just feeling privileged to be able to share the time and the stories as they bantered back and forth.  But what really struck me was their humility and focus on their lives not so much as expedition legends, but rather on educating youth and making sure safety when exploring comes first.  It was the fasted four mile walk I have ever taken.

And it was a great end to my time in Chile’s Patagonia, because starting the next day is my return journey to the End of the World and Antarctica!