Holland America arranged our flights and hotel in Buenos Aires. Both were great. We left out of Baltimore, MD after depositing our cat and car with relatives. Our flights were fine and we arrived in BA on time! There was a long customs line and my husband said he needed to find a seat. I spied a wheel chair and as soon as he was sitting a nice man came and escorted us to the front of the line. What a pleasant surprise. A HAL met us and guided us to the bus that went to our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton Libertador which was in a great location just a block away from the shopping district. ( Think leather) After a quick rest we took a city highlights tour which was perfect. Had 2 great steak dinners one at la Nazarenus which had come highly recommended.
The Veendam: HAL took us to the ship and embarkation was easy and well done. We loved the size of the Veendam, just big enough. A few spots need some attention, but overall the ship was wonderful. We had an ocean-view room on A deck near the elevator which was great when the seas were rough.
We love the casino and greatly enjoyed the various dealers. It was never very busy, so we got to know everyone. We did attend several shows which we also enjoyed. Our favorite was Shirley who played the electric harp. We also loved Dr. Boogie who played the piano every night in the piano bar.
We particularly enjoyed the lecturer who spoke several times on the history and government of the various countries.
The food: The lido was great and there was plenty of variety. Breakfast had everything you could possibly want and I was impressed at the variety that satisfied those from all countries. I still don't understand how the English and Aussies eat that limp bacon, but each to their own. The bread pudding, as always on HAL, was delicious and plentiful.
We had open dining and loved our table for 2 at the back of the Rotterdam (table 125). After making reservations for the first 3 nights and requesting this table, they gave us the same reservation and table for the entire cruise. Lovely. We enjoyed our small table and met several delightful people at the two-person table next to us. A small table will expedite your time at dinner.
The Pinnacle Grill was excellent and well worth the extra expense. Be sure to try it at least once. The Canaletto was good, but not extraordinary.
This cruise was actually two back-to-back cruises. If you can only do one of them, I would recommend Santiago to Fort Lauderdale. More interesting ports than Buenos Aires - Santiago although the penguins in Punta Arenas were extraordinary. Due to weather, we couldn't dock at the Falkland Islands and subsequently learned that the ship can't dock about 50% of the time. So, if you plan to see penguins in the Falklands, also book a back-up tour in Punta Arenas.
Disembarkation: This was a breeze. HAL told us when to leave and there was no rush. Our luggage was in the port, we had no problem with customs, and once on the bus were taken to the airport.
Ports not listed below:
Coquimbo and Serino, Chile: April 1, Beach towns. Stopped to Pisco sours, very good and bought some Pisco! Pisco is brandy and is used to make wonderful Pisco Sours. Better than whiskey sours.
Arica Chile: April 3, Major port for Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Very dry, many places never have rain. Area won by Chile in "Pacific War" with Peru and Bolivia in the late 19th century. Learned about Indian culture and saw and pre-Inca 8,000 year old mummies!
General San Martin: April 5, Took a fabulous trip via boat to the Ballesteros Islands, touted as Peru's equivalent to the Galapagos. I've never seen so many birds, at least one million. Pelicans, peguins, boobies, cormroants, skuas, and also sea lions. Each year the people collect and sell guano, bird poop, as organic fertilizer. The smell was, shall we say, very strong!
Salaverry (Truillo) Peru: April 8. This was the second best stop on the cruise. We visited 3 archaeological ruins and they were unbelievable. El Brujo was north of Salaverry and was constructed by several generations of Pre-Columbian Mochian's who predate the Incas. The chronology pre dates Christ. next was Chan Chan from the Chimu Nation. Last were the Palace of the Sun and Temple of Moon. The site was very tall and built over several hundred years by different cultures. Each culture built larger on top of the previous structure. Human sacrifice was practiced in the temple and the walls had beautiful painted carvings.
This is a tour not to be missed.
Guayaquil, Ecuador: April 10, Nice city, took a city tour. Plaza de las Iguana was interesting. Hundreds of iguanas that are fed daily by residents. Very tame. They were everywhere in the trees,bushes and on the ground!
Manta, Ecuador: April 11, Took tour to Montecristi where they make Panama hats, then to El Chorill which is famous for agave fibers used in coffee bean bags. Last to the Tagua button factory. Tagua is called "vegetable ivory" and is a small nut that is sliced exposing a hard white interior which is used to make buttons. The seeds are also polished and painted and well as carved.
Panama: April 13, Visited Embara Indians. Great tour, and very interesting.
Transit Panama Canal: April 14, Beautiful and very interesting. Locks are fascinating.
San Blas Islands: April 15, Very small island with Cuna Indians. Not much to see. Island can be fully visited in 1 hour.
Grand Cayman Island: April 17: Very pretty, Visited Hell - a small village with interesting lime rocks. Also visited the turtle farm with was great. Don't bother with HAL tours, you can get a great tour in the town for $10
Good last stop on a great cruise