Embarkation in Buenos Aires was a bit chaotic as there were 3 large cruise ships in port that day. You needed to pay attention to which line-up you were in and who you should give your luggage to. We had a fairly long wait in the terminal. We had expected to be onboard the Veendam for lunch but had to seek out a shop and buy a sandwich while waiting to board. Once we got past security, the process was very efficient and we were on board by 2:30 PM. Our luggage was waiting in our room.
We loved our lanai stateroom. The large windows allowed us to see the scenery even when lying in bed with a cold! The sliding door allowed easy access to the deck for photographs. Cabin was clean and in good repair.
We enjoyed the many, varied activities on board. The Spanish lessons were great and a good idea! We very much enjoyed dancing to the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar every evening. The entertainment on board was mostly of high quality. We especially enjoyed the magician and the singers. We were disappointed in the comedian. Benjamin's talks about wildlife and geography were very interesting but would have benefited from a question & answer session at end. We found seating in the Showroom to be uncomfortable. The timing of the Indonesian crew show seemed poor. We had been up early to see glaciers, were in port all day and had to be up early the next day to view Cape Horn. An 11 PM program seemed rather late.
We enjoyed the food in the dining room, Pinnacle Grill, and Lido restaurant. The dining service seemed better organized than on previous cruises and there were few delays once we got to the dining room. The staff were very friendly and helpful. We liked the open dining so we could sit with different people every meal. It was too bad that there was little publicity about the Indonesian food in the Lido. We would have enjoyed going but did not know about it until we were in the dining room that evening.
We had really hoped to make it to the Falkland Islands but understand the need to avoid bad weather & sea conditions. In Montevideo, we walked around on our own and found a wonderful handicraft market. In Puerto Madryn, we had a private excursion to the Punto Tomba penguin reserve which was excellent. We enjoyed seeing the sheep farms and local wildlife. From Punta Arenas, we took the HAL excursion to Magdalena Island to see penguins. It was a great day and there were hundreds of penguins. The scenic cruising in the Beagle Channel was wonderful and the beauty of the scenery exceeded our expectations. It would have been nice if the windows on the ship in Lido and public areas were cleaner. In Ushuaia, we took the HAL excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park and catamaran ride in the Beagle Channel. This was a very worthwhile tour. We were late getting back to the ship so were glad that it was a HAL tour! We had a private tour in Puerto Montt that took us past Lake Llanquihue, to Petrohue Falls, and up a chairlift to the Osorno Volcano. This was a wonderful day and we were exceptionally lucky to have wonderful weather so we could get to the volcano. On the whole, we felt that we received balanced information about each port including available transportation and sights. There wasn't the emphasis on HAL-only excursions and jewelry shops that we have encountered on other cruises. We had only one port where we had to use the tenders. Distribution of tender tickets was very disorganized, confusing and unfair.
Disembarkation was efficient. At the front desk, we were able to arrange the same disembarkation times for all members of our private tour group. We arranged to be picked up at the port and had an all-day tour of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and Santiago before being dropped off at the airport at 6 PM.
Internet service was slow, sporadic and expensive. We were trying to keep in touch with family members with health issues and found it difficult to have good access to internet. Several times, we went to internet sites on shore. It would be useful for HAL information to identify sites for internet access in ports.
Overall, we had a wonderful time on this cruise. The ship seemed to be well- run. We appreciated the daily updates from the captain, Peter Bos. All the announcements were always concise and timely. Although the Veendam is a somewhat older ship, it seemed to be in good repair.