After leaving Puerto Montt, we were supposed to have 2 sea days sailing approximately 1300 kms south through the Chilean Fjords (Tierra del Fuego) and then through the Strait of Magellan on our way to Punta Arenas. Due to high winds and heavy seas after leaving Puerto Montt, our captain opted to wait out the storm for approximately 12 hours to avoid the 30 foot waves that we would have encountered. This resulted in an additional sea day and also meant that we would be forgoing our port of call at Punta Arenas. Although we had planned to celebrate a significant birthday for Kim at a local restaurant in Punta Arenas, we appreciated the captain’s focus on the safety and comfort of the passengers and crew.
While we were at sea, there was still lots to do on board the Celebrity Eclipse. We actually slept in a bit on first sea day after leaving Punta Montt, not waking until just after 8:00am. We arrived at the Oceanview Café for breakfast at 9:00am and had to circle the eating area a few times before we could find a table. The restaurant was unusually busy this morning and we took turns going to the buffet for fear we would lose our table. We kept this in mind as we would be having several more sea days before we finished our cruise.
We always enjoy a few sea days on a cruise as it gives us an opportunity to rest and relax and to enjoy the various amenities on the ship. This particular cruise had contracted a guest lecturer who gave relevant talks about the geography of South America with a particular focus on the glaciers, fjords and climate of the South American Patagonia. I attended all of the lectures and found them quite informative as they gave me a real appreciation for the areas that we were visiting. They were organized such that a given lecture described the area that we would be sailing through the following day. This included descriptions of the glacier formations sliding between the mountain peaks that we would see as we passed through the Chilean Fjords as well as the islands and inlets of the Strait of Magellan, which was widely used as the main sea passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans before the Panama Canal was built.
As well as attending the guest lectures on our sea days we spent time exploring different parts of the ship. One day we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship’s galley located on the 3rd deck. What was most amazing is how small the galley is given the 2850 passengers and 1270 crew that it feeds. Equally amazing is how organized and pristine the area is. The galley is divided into sections that are dedicated to specific dishes and/or menus (breakfast/lunch/dinner). All of the counters and appliances are sparkling stainless steel; a must in order to maintain sanitary conditions as the galley is inspected on a regular basis.
We also visited 2 of the specialty dining rooms aboard the Eclipse - Q-Sine and Tuscan. Q-Sine is a very eccentric animated dining experience, reminiscent of something you might see at a specialty restaurant on a Disney Cruise. The dining room itself is cheery and brightly coloured, but the main feature is the table setting. As the experience begins, the luminated table becomes an animated 3D seabed complete with coral, flora and sea critters. Your dinner plate becomes a solitary island where a lobster and little chef perform a tug-of-war which the chef eventually wins. While we didn’t get to eat at this restaurant, this seems like a great place to spend an evening that would be enjoyable for the whole family.
The second restaurant that we toured was the Tuscan Grille. This is a totally different experience from Q-Sine, being much more traditional and with wooden arches, large wine cabinets and a wonderful sea view at one end of the restaurant. The menu is distinctly Italian, with a focus on mouth watering steaks and a great wine list. We did end up eating at this restaurant a couple of times. We booked a table to celebrate Kim’s birthday (on the day we were supposed to be in Punta Arenas). Kim selected the lamb in phyllo for her meal, while I enjoyed a deliciously marbled steak with side of potato. The restaurant was featuring a Surf and Turf lunch on the day that we would be sailing through the Drake Passage, so we decided to book a window table for that as well.
One of the other unique experiences aboard the Eclipse was the opportunity to participate in a glass-blowing class. While this was an add-on cost, it was a one-on-one experience with a glass blower who would assist you through the process. You also got to keep the product of your hard work! Kim booked a session, which takes place on one of the outside decks. Since we were sailing through the Strait of Magellan at the time, the outside temperature was quite cold. She persevered through the chilly winds and the endless blowing and turning of the glass in the furnace and produced a beautiful blue glass water tumbler.
By the end of our 3rd sea day, we had explored most parts of the ship, attended the nightly live entertainment in the theatre and were well rested and ready for our next port of call - Ushuaia, the most southern city in South America.
Continue to Day 8 - click here
After leaving Santiago on the evening of January 5th, we sailed for a day and a half (more than 1,000 kms) south along the Chilean coast, arriving at Puerto Montt just after 8:00am on January 7th. After our usual buffet breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe, we went to pick up our tickets on Deck 4 at 9:00am for the tender that would take us to the port pier. We thought we had given ourselves plenty of time as the ticket distribution was scheduled to start at 9:30. We were shocked to find an endless line of waiting passengers that extended the entire length of the ship! It seemed like forever before the line in front of us finally started to move.
We received our tickets for tender number 19 and waited for nearly an hour before we were finally able to disembark. We had booked a tour of the area that was scheduled to depart at 10:00am. We didn’t arrive at the pier until 11:00 and still had to wait for 2 other couples to join our group of 10 before our 12-passenger van was able to leave. Our group was accompanied by a driver and a local guide who admitted to us that this was her first tour. While she was very nervous at the beginning, she persevered through her initial jitters.
Puerto Montt is the capital of the province of Llanquihue and has a population of 250,000. The main industry is salmon farming followed closely by agriculture and tourism. It is strategically located at the southern end of the Chilean Central Valley and is a gateway to the Andes mountains and Western Patagonia. The sky was overcast and the air chilly as we drove away from Puerto Montt and headed 45 minutes to the northwest. Our destination was a viewpoint beside Llanquihue Lake in order to observe the peak of Osorno Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the Chilean Andes. The volcano was discovered by Charles Darwin and last erupted in the 1869. Unfortunately, the low-lying cloud obscured Osorno’s summit so we were only able to see the base of the volcano. This part of Chile is known as the “Magic of the South” because the nearly 200 days of annual rainfall contribute to the lush vegetation and greenery that blanket the countryside.
We continued another 20 minutes west to Petrohue Waterfalls situated between Llanquihue Lake and Todos Los Santos Lake. Our driver parked the van and we walked the short distance to the falls, following a boardwalk and lava rock path. Petrohue appears more like a rapids than a traditional waterfalls. The fast moving Emerald green water flows through craggy lava rock formed by the volcanoes. The brilliant emerald colour is caused by a weed which is reflected through the water.
After spending some time walking along the falls and observing the birds and wildlife, we walked back to the parking lot where we boarded the van and drove another half hour to an observation deck overlooking Todos Los Santos Lake, also referred to as the Emerald Lake. We were served a light lunch of empanadas and wine. The area around the lake is surrounded by 3 volcanos, Cerro Tronador which is dormant, as well as Osorno and Calbuco, both of which are considered active. Calbuco has the most recent eruptions, occurring in 2015.
On our way back to Puerto Montt, we stopped at a small town called Puerto Varas. The town, with a population of around 40,000, was founded by Germans in the 1850’s as part of a colonization project and their influence is evident in the architecture and food throughout the area. It is referred to as the “City of Roses” because of the abundance of plants and flowers lining the streets, boulevards and parks.
We arrived back at the cruise terminal in Puerto Montt at 5:15pm and were tendered back to the Eclipse in time to drop our day bag in the stateroom and proceed to dinner. During dinner, the captain announced that there was a severe storm approaching and as a result we would be staying in port for the next 12 hours. This meant that we would miss our next port of call - Puerto Arenas. As disappointing as it was to miss out on a visit to Puerto Arenas, allowing the storm to pass would mean not having to endure 80 km winds and 30-foot waves. We spent the evening attending the live show in the theatre and relaxing with a glass of wine on our balcony.
Continue to Day 5, 6 & 7 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.