Having had the cruise booked for over 12 months, we couldn't wait to embark in Buenos Aires. We had spent two days touring the city with no problems, and despite warnings we experienced no issues at the port either. It was our first time with Princess, so we didn't take a ticket when we should, and were later on-board than we could have been. There were queues but the process was much quicker than that we experienced in Perth with RCI last time.
There was little in the way of guidance once on-board, so we wandered through a few corridors before we found a staircase and our cabin, which was on Aloha Deck 12 just slightly forward. It had a balcony, an empty fridge, a huge bed and it would be our home for the next 29 nights.
We tackled Anytime Dining for the first time and opted to share, something we did every night and met many interesting and friendly people. It was over the dinners that we came across people who had cruised with Princess many times. One couple could even tell us what would be on the menu on any given night! The food was excellent, the service was great but could be a little slow. However that gave time for more conversation, but some people had to skip sweet or coffee in order to make the evening shows.
We only did a couple of the shows as we found them too short at 30 minutes and not our cup of tea (though I believe there were some we would have enjoyed). To get a seat in the Vista Lounge shows you had to be there at least 20 minutes before the show began, which didn't work in with our preferred eating time.
Other entertainment around the ship was enjoyable, the Cruise Director's staff were very good at getting audience participation. My only gripe was there adherence to strict timing. I can understand during the day that events should start at the time stated in the Princess Platter, but a night in a lounge it was too strict. There were times when not all the volunteers for karaoke could sing as it had to stop so the 'pop' group could begin (even though they were the last act. Yet conversely when there weren't enough karaoke singers, it stopped, but the group couldn't start until their allotted time leading to people leaving the lounge.
All the Crew we met were all friendly, and the Captain did a little informative speech over the PA every day. A nice touch was that after tender ports, he thanked the crew for their work on shore and driving the tenders.
We were blessed with excellent weather. I only remember it raining on one occasion and that was during an excursion some 100 miles from the port. There were a couple of grey days but the conservatory was a lovely and warm retreat. We also had flat seas for most days, there was once a 2 metre swell but the ship just glided through it thanks to its stabilisers.
The Falklands saw a lovely autumn day around 15 degrees centigrade, clear skies and no wind, the Captain said it was the best weather of the season. Likewise for Cape Horn. It was cooler and windier but again the skies were clear, the sun was out and we did a full circumnavigation of the Horn coming with 1 km of land, again the closest of the season.
Apart from burning tyres, there was no trouble at Ushuaia, in fact we didn't see or experience any problems at any port. We did take the ship's tours in each port which may have helped in this respect. All the tours were well organised and all used air conditioned coaches, despite the warnings to the contrary when we booked them. Where meals were provided all bar one were better than any other cruise tours we have been on. Of particular note was the visit to the winery at Montevideo, where we had a tasting equivalent to almost one bottle each, and more food than the ship would normally provide in one meal! The Prancing Horses in Peru also fed us to bursting point!
One of the main reasons for taking the cruise was to see wildlife and we were not disappointed. The tours took us close to Penguins, Sea Lions, Whales, monkeys and various birds, but from the balcony we saw dolphins playing and feeding, diving gannets, many frigate birds, pelicans, whales, turtles, flying fish and much more.
I can't finish without commenting on the friendliness of the bar and dining staff who were always ready to have a chat, recognised us throughout the ship and seemed genuinely sad to say goodbye at the end of the cruise.
Disembarkation was ok. We had been warned that due to cutbacks, the US immigration procedure may take some time, but we didn't find it too onerous and we were in no rush to catch a flight in any case.
Leaving the ship after 29 days was hard and it will take a special holiday to beat this one.