Falkland Islands, United Kingdom Wednesday, Jan 30 2019 

On Monday, day 26, another sea day, the three continuing chess players met, as has become our custom, after breakfast. We were hoping to see some new faces from the 400 who boarded in Buenos Aires, but alas not today. A morning lecture by Phillip Hurst entitled “An Uneasy Continent – Shifting Loyalists, New Leaders” introduced us to many important officials in South America. Surprisingly, our trivia team ended up in a three-way tie for first with 10 points, and we won the tiebreak! After lunch I went up to the Explorer’s Lounge to read and discovered the two male Viking singers playing chess. I challenged the winner and then provided them with a quick lesson. Wildlife expert Robin Petch shared the biology and behaviors of an “Iconic Species – The Orca.” He showed videos showing remarkable coordination in their feeding. We found it helpful to hear about Port Stanley, our next port. Gavin W. Roser included several tapes documenting the principals in the “HMS Endurance in the Falklands War.” The enrichment programs on this cruise are great! Superlatives are in order for the food, too. Great variety, presentation, and taste. The entertainment is outstanding. We thoroughly enjoyed the energy “These Guys Worldwide,” whose singing ranged from pop tunes to barbershop, brought to the Star Theater.

Gentoo Mother & Chick

Gentoo Mother & Chick

Originally, our cruise was to spend two days in the Falkland Islands, one day on West Point Island and another in Port Stanley. A few days ago, we learned that damage to the tender dock made it impossible to visit West Point Island. Thus, we spent Tuesday, day 27, in Port Stanley. Last year we took a trek that ended in Gypsy Cove where we saw a colony of Magellanic penguins. This year we selected the privately-owned Bluff Cove Lagoon tour which took us and 14 others on a 30-minute guided minibus ride before dividing into four groups of four for a 10-minute off-road 4×4 jaunt to the Lagoon. There were about a thousand breeding pairs of gentoo penguins as well as a small group of king penguins. The gentoos were in four distinct areas circled with small white flags that guests were not to trespass. The gentoo chicks, however, were free to explore. Three chicks approached me and started pecking at my shoes and blue jeans. An amazing experience! After enjoying the penguins, we took a short walk to the Sea Cabbage Café for complimentary beverage and home-baked cakes and scones. I had a cup of tea and a scone with Diddle Dee jam. There is also a Bluff Cove Museum and gift shop. On our return to Stanley, the other cruise ship had departed and very few of our fellow passengers were on the street. It was a perfect opportunity for me to take pictures of St. Mary’s Church, the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world; the Whalebone Arch composed of the jaws of two blue whales; the Great Britain Mizzen mast; the Post Office; and the Liberation Monument, an obelisk capped with a bronze figure of Britannia commemorating the end of the Falkland Wars. After returning to the Viking Sun, we learned that because of projected bad sea conditions on Wednesday, we would depart without a second day in Stanley.

Wednesday, day 28, turned into a sea day. Despite short notice, many activities were scheduled. Three of us played chess after breakfast. Resident historian William Simpson lectured on the “History of Chile.” Sherry Hutt entertained us talking about “Ushuaia – Robert Fitzroy & HMS Beagle in Tierra del Fuego Island.” Our trivia team scored, for us, a record high 11 points, which didn’t match the winning team who correctly answered 14 of 15 questions. I met with fellow bloggers and would be bloggers. Later this afternoon there is a scheduled port talk on tomorrow’s destination, Ushuaia. Gavin W. Roser will follow that with a presentation on “Geographically Remote Argentina – What Is Going On There?”

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Punta del Este, Uruguay Sunday, Jan 27 2019 

The Hand

The Hand

On Saturday, day 24, we returned to Uruguay where we tendered to Punta del Este, a beautiful seaside resort. The harbor is filled with yachts and many residents reside in palatial mansions. Our two-hour bus tour passed a well-preserved lighthouse built in 1860 using volcanic sand from Rome. Across the street, the Church of our Lady of Iglesia Candelaria, built in 1948, was painted bright blue. Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabel constructed “Le Mano” or “The Hand” on Brava Beach in 1982. Five fingers emerge from the sand in this unique sculpture. In the Beverly Hills neighborhood, we passed the Ralli Museum which boasts European artists as well as one of the important collections of Latin American art. Our only stop was near Casapueblo, the former summer house and studio of Carlos Paez Vilaro which is now a museum, hotel, art gallery, and cafe. Its distinctive white walls are perched on the side of a cliff in the Punta Ballena area. If we visit again, we have several art museums to explore. After the bus tour we walked along the beach and looped through the residential area near the port. Back on the ship we did three loads of wash before attending a first lecture by Gavin W. Roser on “1939 Battle of the River Plate & KMS Admiral Graf Spee.” He attempted to convey way too much material in a forty-five-minute time slot. Our day ended with another spectacular sunset.

On Sunday, day 25, I played chess, including a game with the ship’s General Manager. I got a haircut in the spa from a Croatian stylist. Another new lecturer, Dr, Sherry Hutt, spoke animatedly about “Port Stanley – A Little Bit of Britain in South America.” Our trivia team answered 7 questions correctly, but three teams knew 10 answers. Our wildlife expert, Robin Petch, shared information and pictures on “Whales, Dolphins, Seals & Seabirds – Buenos Aires to Valparaiso.” Although Gavin W. Roser ran into a few technical glitches, he was much better prepared today within his time constraints. He spoke from firsthand experience on “Falklands War – Why Were & Are the Islands So Important to the UK?” We enjoyed a delicious Asian meal at the Chef’s Table that included four paired wines. The evening’s guest entertainer, Jakub Trasak, played the violin across genres with amazing versatility. Another exceptional day aboard the Viking Sun.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina Friday, Jan 25 2019 

Devil's Throat

Devil’s Throat

On Thursday, day 22, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For some 400 passengers this marks the end of their cruise. Last night the Viking Sun crew was recognized for their outstanding service on this first leg of the journey. This was followed by the Viking Band and Singers paying tribute to the Beatles. Our flight on Aerolineas Argentinas from Buenos Aires was delayed about an hour. When we arrived at Iguazu Falls National Park, we quickly ate a late buffet lunch with barbecued meats. Iguazu Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the seven new wonders of the natural world. As part of our Grand Adventure, we rode in an open vehicle about 4-plus kilometers through the subtropical forest that included a closeup view of an unusual bird. Then we embarked on a RIB through rapids and under two separate falls, the Three Musketeers Falls and Simon Bolivar Falls. We didn’t plan to get so thoroughly soaked. We spent the night in the Loi Suites Iguazu Hotel in the midst of the rainforest with three large inviting swimming pools that we didn’t have time to try. The next morning, Friday, day 23, we returned to the park and rode the railroad to the Upper Circuit where we walked about three-quarters of a mile to the magnificent Devil’s Throat, a horseshoe-shaped gorge taller than Niagara Falls. We saw colorful birds, a caiman, and band of coati. We ate a box lunch on the bus trip to the airport where our flight to return to Buenos Aires was on time. We glimpsed a view of the Viking Sun from the air before we landed. Before returning to the ship, we enjoyed a two-hour panoramic tour of the north section of Buenos Aires. We learned that it rained most of the two days we were gone. It was magnificent to experience Iguazu Falls, but we are glad to be back home aboard the Viking Sun.

Montevideo, Uruguay Wednesday, Jan 23 2019 

On Monday, day 19, we enjoyed a very active sea day. An announcement about chess posted in the Viking Daily netted two new players. I played two games with one of them. We had six players on three chess boards. The naturalist, Robin Petch, shared his amazing photographs to date as well as “Photos & Facts – Wildlife from the Caribbean to the Amazon and Beyond.” I was surprised to see how many dolphins and whales he has seen on this cruise. He captured images of a variety of birds including some where a bird snagged a flying fish. Resident historian William Simpson provided a short “History of Argentina” from pre-colonization to the present. Our trivia team collected 8 points while the winning team had 10. In the afternoon I attended the second meeting of bloggers. We lost several original members and gained a couple of new people. No one has blogged as long as I have (2006). “Getting There Was Half the Fun – The Last Atlantic Liners” was another entertaining lecture by Bill Miller. Our last lecture of the day was rather shocking. Daniel E. Nijensohn, a Yale faculty member from Argentina, shared his research on “Eva Peron’s Secret Neurosurgical Procedure,” a lobotomy that was probably politically motivated and may have indirectly caused her death. Both the quantity and quality of optional programs continue to amaze me. We are also meeting fascinating fellow passengers.

On Tuesday, day 20, we arose early and decided to do a load of laundry. The laundry room was surprisingly busy. Three chess tables were filled again and included another new player. I drew the other life member of U. S. Chess and won two games against another player. Today’s port talk covered our destination tomorrow, Montevideo. This is the first city that overlaps with our South American cruise last March. During that visit we traveled by bus to see Uruguay’s oldest city, Colonia del Sacramento. Tomorrow we expect to learn more about the country’s capital. Executive Chef Thomas prepared a Southern Atlantic brunch in Wintergarden and the Pool Deck. It was great! Our trivia team, missing one member, bombed today with only 4 points while the winners scored 11.5. Two book clubs, one for fiction and one for non-fiction, have organized onboard. I met to discuss Ten Women by Marcela Serrano which I happened to read onboard without knowing that it was the first choice of the fiction discussion group. An interesting mix of nine women and three men. In three weeks, we will discuss The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis (my suggestion). We attended another lecture by Yale faculty member Daniel E. Nijensohn on “Norse Arrival in North America, the Vinland Map & Yale University.” Bill Miller is always entertaining with his anecdotes and we were not disappointed with “Sailing to the Sun – Cruising History & Folklore.” Did you know that the first world cruise took place in 1922? Only 15% of Americans have experienced cruising. The cruising industry projects an additional one million guests with a one percent increase. It cost some 800 million dollars to build the Viking Sun. We enjoyed another special dining experience at Manfredi’s. We enjoyed a movie, The Dark Knight, in our stateroom.

La Caretta Monument

La Caretta Monument

On Wednesday, day 21, we enjoyed the moderate temperature and humidity on a panoramic bus tour of Montevideo, strategically situated on the estuary of the Plata River. We visited Independence Square with a statue of General Artigas surrounded by interesting buildings such as Salvo Palace, the Executive Tower, Estevez Palace, the Solis Theatre, and the Canadian embassy. We had a brief stop to photograph the Legislative Palace, a neoclassical building. After passing the Centenario Stadium where soccer’s first FIFA World Cup took place (Uruguay defeated Argentina), we stopped in the Batlle y Ordonez Park where the iconic La Caretta Monument is located. We traveled along the “Rambla,” a recreational avenue that runs alongside the city’s coastline before returning to the port. We walked through the port market, an indoor maze of vendors grilling tantalizing meats and selling clothing, crafts, and souvenirs before returning to the ship for lunch. After lunch we toured the bridge with 2nd officer Elly Boi Sagun. Then we again left the ship where we walked the Sarandi Pedestrian Street. We were awed by the interior of the Metropolitan Cathedral. We visited the Constitution Plaza before returning to the Independence Plaza that we had visited in the morning. We really liked the feel of Montevideo. A great city that has almost half of Uruguay’s 3.5 million population.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Monday, Jan 21 2019 

On Saturday, day 17, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro, founded by the Portuguese on January 20th, 1565, and named for “river in January,” although it is a bay. Boasting about seven million residents, it was the capital of Brazil from 1763-1960. Our entry into the city was marked by a helicopter filming the arrival of the Viking Sun for future publicity. I liked seeing the Historical Castle of Fiscal Island. Our first excursion was a walk around a central downtown square on Rio Branco Avenue where we saw the Municipal Theatre, National Library, City Council Building, and National Fine Arts Museum. There was an interesting mix of colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers. We walked to see St. Anthony’s Church and Convent located near a market. We learned that Bike Rio loans about 600 bicycles through 60 stations. We also walked by numerous homeless, most sleeping but one woman was washing clothes in a five-gallon bucket, on our way to Flamengo Park, the largest leisure attraction in the city with 300 acres of green urban park space. Our tour bus passed by the Carioca Aqueduct, constructed in 1750, and the Monument of the Dead World War II Monument. An interesting introduction to the city which was mostly deserted on a Saturday morning. We attended the afternoon tea where Minky G performed classical guitar.

Sugarloaf Mountain Sunset

Sugarloaf Mountain Sunset

Our evening excursion was a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. We took the cable car up 722 feet to the first hill, Morro da Urca. A second cable car dropped us off on Sugarloaf Mountain with an elevation of 1,300 feet above Guanabara Bay. We learned that Augusto Ferreira Rames (1860-1939) had the idea for the statue and was its engineer. We marveled at the panoramic views and enjoyed the colors of a spectacular sunset! On our return to the ship, we grabbed something to eat from the World Café before it closed and enjoyed watching the music and dance on the Pool Deck of Samba Cervila on a simulcast as it was being performed in the Star Theater.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

On Sunday, day 18, a cog railway took us through the Tijuca Forest, a tropical rainforest that is recovering from 19th century deforestation to accommodate coffee plantations, to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue with its arms spread out in a welcoming embrace. Covered in more than six million soapstone tiles, the art deco statue is 98 feet tall and has an arm span of 92 feet on Corcovado mountain. Clouds covered some of the view of Rio, but we were able to see a section with an Olympic stadium. On our return to the ship we passed Ipanema Beach. After a quick lunch, I joined others to watch us depart Rio de Janeiro. Then, Daniel E. Nijensohn lectured on “The Spanish Armada & Threats to the British Isles” in 1588. Bob Ray, the resident photographer who came on board in Rio, introduced himself by sharing photographs that illustrated “Cameras Do Not Take Pictures, People Do.” Executive Chef Thomas and his galley team fed us with Brazilian culinary delights. The Viking Band continued the day’s celebration with “Brazilian Night Under the Stars.” I drank too many Caipirinha. We did not attempt to see the total lunar eclipse. Yet another full day!

Buzios, Brazil Friday, Jan 18 2019 

On Thursday, day 15, we relaxed during another sea day. After breakfast, I played a couple of games of chess. Our morning enrichment program featured the return of Roger McGuinn with “Songs of the Sea – A Tribute to the Golden Age of Sail.” A tough day at trivia for our team with only 5 points while the winning team had 9. In the afternoon we learned more about our next port stop, Armacao Dos Buzios. This was followed by Lou Thieblemont, a fellow cruiser and vacationing Viking employee who is an astronomy expert. He spoke on “Aviation – A Trip in the Cockpit of a Boeing 757.” This was an interesting introduction to flight simulation. Each meal is a special treat composed of appetizer, entre, and desert paired with our choice from a wide selection of wines. The evening entertainment was a humorous performance of magic tricks by Shawn McMaster that involved many audience members.

Brigitte Bardot Sculpture

Brigitte Bardot Sculpture

On Friday, day 16, I played four games of chess against two opponents. We attended the port talk in preparation for our next stop in Rio de Janeiro. In the afternoon we took a tender to Buzios where we joined 26 others for a catamaran cruise. We snorkeled in three spots including Joao Fernandes Beach and Praia do Canto Beach. We saw many yellow and black striped fish, a turtle, and coral. On our return to Buzios, we enjoyed colorful whimsical sculptures and walked to the iconic Brigitte Bardot sculpture. Bardot’s 1964 visit transformed this sleepy fishing port by attracting the international jet set to its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and tranquil atmosphere. Back on the Viking Sun we relaxed with a caipirinha, a local drink. Another great day!

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