When we decided to take a cruise around Cape Horn, we knew we were going for the itinerary. There were three lines leaving Buenos Aires in the time-frame that we had (Celebrity, HA, and Princess). We chose the Princess because of the chance to go to the Falkland Islands. However, we also expected a certain level of entertainment, dining and an overall experience in line with the Princess brand.
1) The lack of exercise facilities. One of the things my wife and I look forward to when cruising is the running track. There's something about running on the high seas, with the challenge of the wind, the fresh air, etc. It's fantastic. According to Princess' website (even still today), they offer running trackS. Needless to say, there was not one. We had two options: Deck 15, which involved us hurdling over passengers and deck chairs, or Deck 7, which went 3/4 around the ship, until you meet 4 sets of stairs. Both options do not qualify as running tracks. On past cruises, there would be a dedicated area, size did not matter, with a proper running surface, that had no obstacles and just room to run.
2) Cleanliness. This should be #1, but I believe both go hand-in-hand. Princess does not take illness seriously, until it happens. There are Purell boxes available only at the buffet, the International Cafe and the pizza/hamburger restaurants. However, you will not find them when leaving any bathroom, the gym, entering the sit-down restaurants, or the casino. I witnessed a number of people not wash their hands in the bathroom, and as disgusting as that is, at least a Purell station would give them a chance to make amends. Personally, I got sick with the norovirus, after taking incredible care throughout the trip. While some might disagree, I put the blame on Princess for not doing enough to encourage cleanliness amongst other guests. I was aware of how quickly an illness can spread on a ship and I took the utmost care, but you never know what could trigger it, and I think Princess does not take it seriously.
With that being said, upon getting sick, Princess did ensure I was quarantined. However, what to do with my wife? I think if one wants to stop the spread of an illness, making my wife sleep in the same cabin as I is not the best step. Why not have a cabin available in this case? Let the companions of sick guests stay there until the illness has run its course. She was not quarantined and she could have potentially spread the illness throughout the ship. Not smart, Princess.
3) Entertainment: sub par. The non-singers were good: Comedian Cary Long and Hector the Magician were both pretty good. Gaucho Del Plato seemed like a continuous Saturday Night Live skit, but he was still entertaining. However, the Princess Pop Stars gave the paid musical entertainment a run for their money. The Princess singers were okay, but the dancers - continuously out of sync and should spend more time practicing than in the gym. Elvy Rose was awful. Crooner, Jamie Cuadra...much to be desired. It also begs to question the decision making at Princess when both Rose and Cuadra sing similar sets. I understand being in Latin America and I appreciate the music and culture, but it was a Latin American overload for the last week. Too much. The theatre was 2/3 empty.
In terms of the on-board activities, a number of the games were fun. The "Movies Under the Stars" is a great idea, but is anyone really going to sit outside in freezing weather to watch a movie? Why not broadcast elsewhere in the ship or in the staterooms?
4) Food: Two different experiences. The dining room food and service was excellent. The Maitre D, Neville, should have his own show in the Princess Theatre as he is both funny and charming. However, the buffet food leaves much to be desired. The bread was stale, the fish selection wasn't consistent, they would constantly run out (and not replenish) items. I expected much better from Princess and honestly, a Carnival cruise put this buffet to shame.
5) Tendering: Horrible. If you know you will be tendering in a port, why not run more tenders? At Stanley, the most popular port, there were two tenders going back and forth. The lineup was over an hour. Not acceptable.
6) Embarkation/Disembarkation: Surprisingly smooth and simple. I was impressed with that.
7) Staff: For the most part, they were very kind and helpful. Our waiters (Roy and Boris) were fantastic. Our cabin steward (Antonio) was also quite good. Having used the services of the nurse, I forger her name, she was excellent. Those reporting to the cruise director were also great. However, the other staff, at the guest services department, were subpar and useless.
Wow. That's all I can say. THANK YOU JIMMY!
Volunteer Point is an exceptional place for any animal lover, however, I think it is only a part of what visitors to the Falkland Islands should experience. Thanks to Jimmy Curtis and Volunteer Point Tours, our time in Stanley and at Volunteers was exceptional from the moment we stepped off our tender until we returned.
Getting to Volunteer Point is not for the fait of heart. The travel there and back is mostly "off-roading" and for the four of us in Jimmy's 4x4, he ensured to make it a memorable experience. While there are a number of ways one can traverse the hills and fields to and from Volunteers, Jimmy promised and delivered a wild ride, which should be a shore excursion in itself! Of course, there are calmer ways to get there, and we had those options, but we asked for some excitement - and he delivered!
Upon arriving at Volunteers, we were able to spend nearly two hours walking amongst thousands of King and Magellanic penguins. While you can't, nor don't want to, disturb the penguins, they are nonetheless walking amongst the tourists, living their lives. You can head down to the beach and see them go for a swim, and just follow them everywhere. Unlike other colonies, there are very little restrictions as per what you can do. This place is incredible.
But one of the most important things for us, when having limited time at ports-of-call, is really trying to get a taste of the culture and life and I have to say that our day with Jimmy really made our time at the Falklands special.
Jimmy has lived on the islands since he was 8 years old. He actually immigrated there only six months before the war with Argentina, and he shared his memories with us as well as really gave us a peek into daily life on the islands. There were a number of tour options available (City tour, battlefield tour, etc.) and I think in just talking with and spending 4 hours in the car with Jimmy, we had everything rolled up into one.
Upon returning from Volunteers, Jimmy pointed out some important battlefields and wreckage along the way (satisfying my interest in the war) and gave us a tour of Stanley, allowing us to see all the highlights: government buildings, schools, memorials - and even his mother in law's house!
Everything was timed perfectly that we even had some extra time to grab a pint, with, you guessed it, Jimmy (and his wife, Tanya), before heading back to our ship!
While it is true that the Volunteer Point excursion, whether booked with the cruise ship or on your own, is not cheap, however, for the penguins alone, it is worth every penny. But when you get to spend your time with someone, it makes the experience definitely one you will never ever forget.
We read a bunch of reviews for other guides, but we are so so so happy we found Jimmy. We urge you to send him an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're heading out there. You'll thank us later!!!