We just returned from the Star Princess South America cruise. Cruise departed Buenos Aires January 25 and ended Valpraiso, Feb. 13. This was our 6th and probably final Princess cruise.
Boarding the ship was a nightmare process-several thousand people boarding 7 ships crammed together in a hangar like terminal in 95 degree heat. We were supposed to have priority boarding, but no Princess personnel were present to enforce that policy. The process and standing in line took us 3 hours to board. Argentina doesn't seem to handle tourists very well.
If the beginning was terrible, the end of the cruise was a disaster! Most flights from South America to the U.S. leave between 10:00 and 12:00 pm. The ship arrives at Valpraiso commercial port at 5:00 am. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 11:30 pm. What to do all day? Princess requires all passengers to disembark by 8:00 am. Princess offered an all day tour of the area with lunch ending at the airport. The cost was $149 each, but choices were limited and we did eventually need to get to the airport in Santiago so we signed up. A couple of days before the end of the cruise we discovered that Princess, in addition to the charge for the tour scheduled to end at the airport was also charging us $79 each for airport transfers? We were told that's just the way they do it.
Now for the tour which began by driving around central Valpraiso which is an old broken down port littered with trash and covered in graffiti. After a couple of hours we drove to a more modern beach area to look for some seals. There was really not much of interest to see, Around noon we headed inland to the place called Olmue where we were to have lunch. Olmue is a dumpy little place way out in the sticks. Princess has contracted for lunch at this place which is very unattractive with a lot of trash around. A tent of sorts and tables for 2 or 3 hundred people have been set up. It is extremely hot and humid. We sat at the tables ad some very disgusting food covered with flies is offered. We were hungry but unable to eat, and nothing else was available at this remote location. Some local kids had been hired to jump around for entertainment.
Around 1:30 we got back on the bus and continued on the winding secondary road to Santiago.
We drove around the city which seemed quite rundown and unattractive. Finally we drove to the newer area of the city because someone on the bus needed to be dropped off at the Intercontinental Hotel. About 6:00 pm we headed for the airport arriving about 6:30. For this torturous day we paid Princess almost $500.
To polish off the day, the main hall of the airport was jammed with a mob of people. Disneyland lines snaked back and forth but no airline personnel were on duty until after 7:00 pm. It took almost 3 hours to reach the American Airlines counter! Unbelievable!