Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso harbor, Chile

Friday, Feb 24

This morning, after breakfast, we packed and took an Uber from Santiago to Valparaiso to get on our ship.  Setting up the Uber was easy – though we were warned that often the drivers don’t accept the ride because they expect to make more money.  (Just to put things in perspective, we had asked the hotel to arrange transportation for us, and the quoted rate was $240.  Our Uber cost us just $120.) A driver did accept our ride, and turned out to be an Uber driver who only did long runs, i.e. airport-Santiago-airport, Santiago-airport-Valparaiso and similar.  The time to drive from our hotel to the port was 1 hour and 30 mins.

It wasn’t easy to figure out where we were supposed to go once we got there!  Interestingly, Viking didn’t provide any details (like an address!). Though we expected it to be obvious (a cruise ship is pretty big, after all)…it wasn’t.  The ship was plainly visible, but where we had to go to get on was more than a mile away! It took us three asks for directions and help in order to find it.

Notwithstanding the difficulty of finding the passenger terminal, once there, things went smoothly.  Viking took our luggage and we proceeded to check-in and were transferred by bus to the ship.  Once on board, we had to kill some time before our stateroom was ready, and fortunately, there was lunch to be eaten – Can you think of a better way to wait?

We were able to enter our stateroom about 1:00 and less than an hour later, our luggage was delivered.

I am going to write about life on the ship separately from the narrative of the places we visited.  That way, if your mode of transportation while visiting is not a cruise ship, you won’t be bored by descriptions of the very relaxing (yes, almost boring) life at sea!

Here’s the first aside on ship life.

(The link will open a new page, leaving this page open, and allow you to return to the same spot.  There is more to read here!)

Gerry, on board

Gerry, on board

Though we thought we would, we did not visit Valparaiso on our own. Two factors contributed to this: 1) What we saw of Valparaiso getting to the ship was not at all welcoming (think dirty and ugly) but 2) to get off the ship and visit the town was so inconvenient.  The ship was docked right downtown, and we could see the area that the guidebook encouraged us to explore from our stateroom windows.  It was right there!  But, to get “right there” we had to take a bus back to the terminal, and walk a mile to the downtown – inverse and repeat on the way back.

Valparaiso at Night

Saturday, Feb 25

Vinas del Mar waterfront; Interesting clouds

Saturday, our shore excursion was a “Panoramic Valparaiso and Viñas del Mar”.  Just so you’re clear “panoramic” means you see it from a bus. We boarded the bus at the Passenger Terminal in Valparaiso, and traveled through congested streets with a ton a traffic, to see (from the bus) the famous Flower Clock of Viñas del Mar. Viñas del Mar is a beach community and this is a hopping place on the last Saturday of summer vacation.  There are lots of beautiful homes, and even more condos, for rent – just as you would expect in any beach town. But, we were informed, swimming is not one of the activities you partake of on these beaches – the water is much too cold!  The temperature of the water is controlled by the Humboldt current – the same current that surrounds the Galapagos Islands.

Moai at the Fonck Mueseum, Vinas del Mar

We got off our bus in Viñas del Mar to visit the Fonck Museum and learn about the history of Easter Island, also called Rapa Nui.  It was quite interesting, however we won’t be going there on this trip. The museum was small and packed to the gills by our fellow cruisers.  Thankfully, we could hear the narrative on our little walkie talkies, and see the exhibits once the party moved on.  Supposedly the only genuine moai not on Easter Island is this one, at the museum.

On the return to Valparaiso we were dropped off for a free time in Sotomayor Square.  I apologize for no pictures – especially because the Navy building is a gem – but a market in the plaza ruined any possible pictures, so you may have to content yourselves with a postcard, or the link above.  Gerry and I sampled sopaipillas in the market – delicious fried bread.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile


Once back on the ship, we prepared for the boat to leave the harbor and set sail up on the topmost deck from where we had a real panoramic view of Valparaiso harbor.

It isn’t usually my wont to talk about the negatives of a place, but I was struck by the contrast of our “luxury cruise” with Viking to the ugly, squalid port area of Valparaiso. It seems to me ( and I said so in my review) that the various cruise ship companies should work with the city/port/Navy to upgrade the area. They could start by replacing the abandoned buildings with their broken windows, the over-grown weeds and cracked pavement to create a different impression of the city.

Yours Truly as we set off from Valparaiso.

This evening the boat left the harbor and we stayed up on deck 8, with our Pisco Sours to say goodbye to Valparaiso. Because we are on the western side of South America the sunsets are much more dramatic than the sunrises, and we usually have daylight until well into the evening.  When it gets dark, it gets dark fast!

Tonight we had our first dinner at the Chef’s Table, one of two specialty restaurants on board.  The theme was Asian foods and I thought it quite delicious.  We splurged on the premium beverage package, so our pairings are slightly different than those without it, but that is not to say that any of the wines are not good enough. Wine, like art and music, is a matter of taste, not price. Paying more doesn’t mean you will like it better – just makes you think you should!

Tomorrow we are at sea, keep reading here.