February 18 -- March 5, 2013 Veendam
This particular cruise was blessed with good weather--little rain, warm temperatures (66 F) and reasonable seas. Weather was so good, we actually made it to the Falklands.
We had one of the "A" Veranda suites at the aft end of deck 9. The balcony was usually large and we could see sights on both the left and right. It was well worth the price. This is the perfect cruise for those who really like cruising--i.e. watching a unique part of the world drift by. The "at sea" days spent in the Beagle Channel, Chilean fjords, etc. make for some amazing cruising. I do wish someone had told us that it's not really cold in Puerto Arenas and Ushuaia in March; we needed air conditioning, not winter clothes. Also wish someone had told us that by late February most of the penguins have left. Scenery wasvspectacular.
We're moderately experienced cruisers. Here are our pros and cons for this cruise.
- Nice sized cabin, comfortable furnishings, large veranda and comfortable bathroom.
- Consistently good, though generally not exceptional, food. The beef, pork and lamb selections were unusually well prepared. Also enjoyed the extra spiciness on some of the Asian entrees--not something you get on other cruise lines.
- An extremely experienced staff that is efficient, pleasant and courteous.
- Excellent presentations on wildlife and the natural world by the Excursion Director.
- The Captain, Peter Bos, while consistently a figure of authority, struck the right chord between casual and formal. It was clear the welfare of the passengers was one of his highest priorities. Having experienced a cruise with a norovirus outbreak, his comments on hygiene were appreciated.
- This cruise was cursed with some of the most impolite passengers we've ever experienced, which challenged the professionalism of some of the younger members of the staff.
- The internet service was deplorable. It might have been OK 5 years ago, but with the explosion of smart devices it was grossly inadequate. At mid-day if you actually could get a connection, the response time was either exceedingly slow or you'd get logged out. Sometimes between 10 AM and 6 PM you couldn't even log on. If Response time was only acceptable before 10 AM and after 6 PM, which tells me the problem is inadequate capacity. At $.55/minute on the base plan, slow response quickly gets pricey.
- Disembarkation was a disaster. I won't go into particulars, but HAL should have backup plans for when 6 cruise ships arrive in the same port at the same time and all need to get the passengers off so a new set of passengers can board. We also had difficulty with overnight stay in Santiago before the cruise. The transfer staff delivered us to the hotel 6 hours before our room was available; no coherent plan for handling the passengers while they waited for rooms. Hospitality should extend to pre and post cruise events; HAL should do better.