Zaandam Cruise Review by Wtrav: Absolutely Brilliant
Overall Member Rating
Destination: South America
Embarkation: Buenos Aires
For those who have seen "the world", Antarctica is "out of this world". Especially when you get the 1% weather window of two consecutive sunny, cloudless, windless days during which you can take the "brochure pictures".
This cruise is fantastic for those who have been around a bit, been to the third world, experienced mud, rain, wind, hail, rough seas, and rude and intolerant whingers who complain that it is too windy/rainy/cold/rough on the boat, and are annoyed that he hot tubs and swimming pools are drained, because if they aren't, the decks will flood.
Where did these morons think they were going? St. Thomas? Either they are ignorant, or their travel agent failed to advise them that they were going to be part of a unique, wild, desolate, but SPECTACULAR experience.
Let us be honest about this - you go on the 17 day Holland Cruise because you don' want to pay three times the amount for the mediocre Crystal Symphony (at least based on the complaints I More heard at the SCL check in to go home), or $20k to go with National Geographic in a small cork from Ushuaia. Thus, for your three days in Antarctica, you have to tolerate 5 pure sea days, and 5 days of the disorganization, graffiti, and daily mini riots of the South American ports you visit as part of the equation. It is clearly your fault when you get robbed in the favelas. The cruise director and literature give you many warnings to dress down, stay on the beaten track, and leave EVERYTHING of value on the boat. So you only have yourself to blame when your Gucci hand bag is ripped from your shoulders by a motorcycle hoodlum. Or some petty thief swipes your wallet when you fall for the "Cambio" ruse in BA.
That said, there are many safe areas of all the cities, and 98% of the passengers have no problems whatsoever. The Museo Belles Artes in BA, the Governor's museum in Montevideo, the Prison museum in Ushuaia, and the Plaza de Armas in Punta Arenas are all interesting and safe spots to visit. And taxis are uniformly cheap - about $1 per mile.
But the piece de resistance of the ports of call, if you are lucky enough to have a Captain who is not intimidated by the Argentine threat to make life difficult for ships who dock there, is the Falklands. Either a history tour led by a former Marine, who liberated the islands, or if you can stand 4 hours of extreme 4x4 off roading, the King Penguin Colony, almost makes the entire trip worthwhile.
Veteran travelers know that after the Falklands, they will then spend the next sea day sleeping, so that once the most northerly islands of the Antarctic Peninsular are spotted, they can stay up for 21 hours of each of the next 3 days, taking pictures every minute or so. The scenery, if the weather cooperates, is spectacular. If it doesn't, the whingers will be at it, all day long. I believe it is sacrilegious for people to be "sunning on the Lido" when they are in Antarctica, as though this is the garden variety cruise from Fort Lauderdale. But there were many. Maybe I should be thankful that that left the outer promenade decks and the bow less crowded for me!
The "expedition team" for HAL of previous Antarctic researchers and explorers made sure that at least 4 hours of every sea day had lectures on the history, geography and biology of the region. In particular, Chris Wilson, great nephew of the late Ed Wilson, who died with Scott in 1912, made our trip come alive.
This cruise was my second with HAL to the bottom of the world. I highly recommend it, but only if you want to "experience" it, not just look at it, through the tinted windows of the Crow's Nest. Less
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