A Familiar Face and Some Good Wine

Day 39, Grand World Voyage 2020

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020; San Antonio, Chile

The best thing about today was hearing my name called from the Piano Bar this evening. Ivan ran out to the hallway to great me. He just joined the ship today and already was hard at work delivering drinks. Ivan was one of my favorite waiters in the Crow’s Nest on the 2018 Grand Asia cruise and again last August on the MS Zuiderdam when we sailed on the Voyage of the Vikings.

I’ve seen these kinds of reunions many times during this cruise. Repeat passengers get to know their dining room stewards, cabin stewards and beverage stewards during long cruises. Many of the crew and officers come back to the ship each year. Others move around the fleet so you are likely to see someone you know on other Holland America ships.

That’s one of the things that make longer Holland America cruises special.

We docked this morning in San Antonio, Chile, one of the country’s largest ports. It’s about an hour or so from the capital Santiago, making this a good port for crew changes. We have traveled far enough north to be in one of Chile’s renowned vineyard regions, so of course we opted for a wine tour.

The wine from Matetic Vineyard was very good. Unfortunately, the tour — not so much. This was one of a few tours sponsored jointly by Holland America and Food and Wine magazine. In the past I have found these tours to be excellent and well worth their premium pricing.

Today we joined the last of three buses, and it eventually became obvious that our driver had missed a turn and took us quite a bit out of the way. Our coastal tour was blocks from the coast, with little to see. Then we took a roundabout route through arid country. The guide kept telling us “just 15 minutes more,” but those of us in the back of the bus following along on our map apps could see it would be an hour or more.

We arrived at the vineyard as the other buses were about to leave for the promised “well-curated boutique stocking a variety of local products, handicrafts and win accessories,” which we skipped entirely because we were so late.

Matetic Vineyard is in the Rosario Valley, which is known for some of Chile’s best wines. This fourth-generation family produces organic wines using biodynamics, which some have described as supercharged organic process.

The winery has built a distinctive facility, with casks of wine stored underground surrounded by gabion walls, designed to move with earthquakes rather than buckle. The handpicked grapes go through several processes before the juice is moved to large tanks for fermentation. I admit I didn’t pay close attention to the description, as I was off in my own world sketching.

After the tour we sampled three wines of Matetic’s Corralillo label: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah. We purchased two bottles of Pinot Noir for our on-board collection.

Upon our return, I shared my disappointment in the tour with one of the shore excursions staff. Apart from the circuitous route, the tour would have been okay for a Holland America basic excursion. But it didn’t live up to my earlier experiences on a Food and Wine magazine promoted tour. She appreciated the feedback, and I have my fingers crossed that the next Food and Wine tour is up to standards, as I generally really like them.

For almost the entire day the MS Amsterdam bunkered fuel – right outside our cabin window. This also was a major resupply port.

Now we leave South America and head west. After four sea days we will arrive at Easter Island, technically part of Chile. We’re putting the New World behind us and moving to the South Pacific, where I expect temperatures will warm from the last few days in the 50s and low 60s.

The antibiotics seem to have done their job, and I am just left with the congestion of a head cold. I think I will prescribe myself daily naps on all these sea days.