Celebrity Infinity South America (February 25-March 11 2007)
--- Buenos Aires, Argentina (February 24-25, 2007) --- Buenos Aires is a modern city where (as my wife says) the people wear nice shoes. The people are relaxed and cordial. You can walk into a local restaurant without everyone in the place staring at you.
The weather was hot and beautiful the entire time we were in Buenos Aires.
One thing we noticed throughout the trip is that English is not as prevalent in South America as in other places we have cruised. If you're going to deal with the locals on your own then you'll need to brush up on your Spanish language skills or at the very least bring a phrase book.
Getting around by taxi is easy and inexpensive. Just be aware that few of the drivers speak English. It costs us about $20USD to get from the airport to the center of town. Most local rides in the city will cost you about $3USD.
We stayed at the Claridge Hotel. This hotel is nice but the bathroom was very small. The included breakfast was good but not great. The best part about the hotel is that it is centrally located and it's very easy to walk to shopping on Calle Florida (street) and nearby restaurants. If you go right on Calle Florida from the Claridge, there is a park about eight blocks down that is very beautiful with a great view. There's a lot of shopping along Calle Florida. Every leather product imaginable is available here at reasonable prices. There was one restaurant near the hotel that we enjoyed so much we ate there three times. It's called "La Pasada de 1820". Out the front door of the Claridge, go left, and it's on the corner.
We went to the Recoleta Cemetery. Don't miss this, even if you don't like cemeteries. This place is a photographer's dream for architectural photos. There is a large market with local vendors outside of the cemetery. There are a lot of well-made crafts. Vendors are nice, not pushy. We ate outside of the Recoleta Cemetery at the Cafe Victoria. It was cool, pleasant, and the food was good but nothing spectacular. We also took a taxi to the San Telmo Market. This is an antique, fruit, meat market. It's not very big and can be hot inside.
We took a taxi to the port. There was no one to handle the luggage from the taxi to the drop point. We were very hot and sweaty by the time we got ready to check in for the cruise. Cruise check in was quick and efficient. Our ship was scheduled to board at 2pm. We boarded around 1pm and concluded we could have boarded as early as 11am.
Our cabin was on the port side of the ship but we think it would have been better to be on the starboard side for this direction around South America and the way the ship docked at some of the ports.
The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- Montevideo, Uruguay (February 26, 2007) --- The ship arrived about an hour late. The weather was sunny and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where we docked there was a green painted pedestrian path that led to the port market area. Someone handed us a map as we got off of the ship. The majority of the port market is indoors. There is some shopping but mostly food vendors cooking meat on open grills. We ate some sausages and they were really good.
Not much shopping here. There was some shopping at the "Constitution Plaza" but none at the "Independence Plaza". It's safe to walk the 8-10 blocks from the ship or market area to the plazas.
It is clean, safe, and the local people are courteous. It helps to know some Spanish.
The evening attire on the ship was informal.
--- At Sea (February 27, 2007) --- Moderate seas. The evening attire on the ship was formal.
--- Puerto Madryn, Argentina (February 28, 2007) --- Strong winds and choppy seas overnight. Arrived 1.5 hours late. The weather was sunny and 70+ degrees Fahrenheit.
Disembarking from the ship was very crowded and disorganized. For some reason they had one small gangway that really inhibited people getting off of the ship. There are two piers in Puerto Madryn. An NCL ship docked at the pier in the center of town and our ship docked at the port farther away. There was a free shuttle bus from our ship to the center of town (which is at the other pier). We were expecting a very small quaint port but it turned out this is a larger more bustling town than that.
We weren't up for the long ride to Punto Tumbo as we've seen penguins a number of times before. We rented a car from Hertz. The Hertz location was on the main street about a block from where the shuttle bus dropped us off. They are closed from 1pm to 5pm so plan accordingly. We had decided to drive to Gaiman for tea. Directions to Gaiman: From the main street (Roca), turn right on Gales and go about 2 miles. Bear right when you see a sign for national route 3. (You'll know you've gone too far if the asphalt ends.) You'll go less than a mile and come to a roundabout. Follow the sign to Trelew. We were surprised to find that it is very arid and desert-like here. There is nothing to see between Puerto Madryn and Gaiman. You'll then drive about 60K to Trelew. Before you enter Trelew city proper you'll come to a roundabout. Go to the right toward Gaiman. After about 15K you'll come to another roundabout. Go to the left to enter the town of Gaiman. You can go to the tourist information center on the right just as you enter the town. At the information center you can go to the restroom and get a map of the town. From there you can drive through a neat one-way tunnel that takes you through a hill to the other side of the town. This is definitely fun if you're adventurous. In Gaiman we went to a quaint tea house. They had great tea and snacks. We couldn't possibly eat all of the snacks they brought us. There's not much shopping here so we walked down the river which was good for a few pictures. If you're looking for un-crowded and quaint, then this is your town.
There is some shopping in Puerto Madryn along the main street and for a depth of several blocks. It seems that many places are closed from 1pm to 5pm.
The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- At Sea (March 1, 2007) --- Moderate seas. The evening attire on the ship was informal.
--- Port Stanley, Falkland Islands (March 2, 2007) --- Moderate seas. This is a tendered port. The tender trip from the ship to the dock is 15-25 minutes. The weather was cold and rainy, then sunny, then cold and rainy, then sunny, etc.
We walked around the town. Everything here seems to be centered on tourism. There are quite few shops here. Ate at a Brasserie about two blocks up the hill from the tender pier. It was a very good lunch.
The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- At Sea (March 3, 2007) --- Moderate seas. The evening attire on the ship was formal.
--- Cape Horn, Chile (March 4, 2007) --- Moderate seas. The captain said it was unusually calm. There was a lot of beautiful scenery. The ship sat at the end of Cape Horn and slowly rotated around for about an hour so everyone could get pictures from every side. The evening attire on the ship was informal.
--- Ushuaia, Argentina (March 5, 2007) --- It was cold and windy when we docked. It was intermittently snowing and sunny all day.
We negotiated a cab near the port. It was $120 for 4 people for about 3 hours. This included a tour of the "Terra Del Fuego National Park", a brief tour of the city, and a trip up to the "Martial Glacier". The entrance fee to the park was an additional 20pesos each (about $6USD). Our taxi driver spoke a good bit of English but didn't talk a lot. The park itself was beautiful and well worth the visit. When we got up to the ski lift to take us to the glacier it was snowing so hard that they weren't letting people on the lift. The taxi driver then took us to the restaurant "Kaupe" where we had made a reservation before leaving home. This is a beautiful restaurant overlooking the port. It's about a 6-block walk from the ship. Very nice. More expensive than the other restaurants where we'd eaten in South America.
This city was absolutely beautiful. It's surrounded by snow-capped mountains and has a bit of a frontier town feel to it. We consider it one of the most beautiful ports we've visited. It definitely feels like a tourist port. There's a good bit of shopping near the port but much of it is redundant.
It was beautiful cruising out of the town with photo opportunities everywhere. Glaciers, snow-capped mountains, etc. The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- Punta Arenas, Chile (March 6, 2007) --- This was a tendered port with a very short ride to the pier. It's just a few blocks to walk into town.
This is a bustling small town. It's has more of a local feel to rather than a tourist feel. There were some nice shopping stalls at the plaza in the center of town. Lots of Alpaca sweaters, hats, gloves, etc. Also leather, lapis and other items.
We ate at "Sotito's Restaurant" which is very near the port. It doesn't look like much from the outside but it is nice inside, the food is very good and inexpensive.
The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- Straits of Magellan/Chilean Fjords (March 7, 2007) --- Seas were choppy overnight, but once in the Fjords it was like being on a lake. Beautiful cruising between the mountains. We were very close to shore and beautiful views most of the time. The ship went up to the face of the Skua Glacier which was incredible. There were chunks of ice around the ship for many miles of the trip up into the glacier. The evening attire on the ship was informal.
--- Chilean Fjords (March 8, 2007) --- Cool and cloudy with intermittent showers. The water was as calm as a pond. Very beautiful cruising. The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- Puerto Montt, Chile (March 9, 2007) --- Cool. Cloudy in the morning, rain in the afternoon. Temperature in the low 60's. This is a tendered port and it's about two miles from the tender pier to the center of town. We walked into town but there's not a lot to see along the way. We should have taken a taxi. This is also a very bustling city.
We decided to rent a car here and go on our own. The driving here was easy and the roads are very good. The people at Budget car rental were extremely friendly and even gave us a ride back to the pier at the end of the day. We drove to Puerto Varas, then on to Petrohue (pronounced petro-way) falls. The drive was very beautiful even though it was cloudy and rainy. Petrohue falls is definitely worth the visit. The main tourist part of the falls is on a prepared walkway, is very crowded, but worth it for the pictures. There is a trail that goes to the right down the river and it is worth a 30-minute round-trip walk down that trail. It's very beautiful and you can walk down to the edge of the river and the rushing rapids. Because of the clouds, we only had one glimpse of the Osorno Volcano during the day. There are many small restaurants along the way but they get crowded with tour buses during lunch. It can take a long time to get your bill in many of the restaurants in South America. If you're in a hurry, ask for the bill when they bring your food so you don't lose a half-hour settling up at the end of the meal.
The biggest problem here is that the ship needed to be in port longer. We were able to get on a tender about 9:30AM and the last returning tender was 4:15PM. That doesn't leave much time to explore the outlying areas, eat, do some shopping, etc.
The evening attire on the ship was formal.
--- At Sea (March 10, 2007) --- Calm seas. Sunny day. The evening attire on the ship was casual.
--- Valparaiso/Santiago, Chile (March 11, 2007) --- We arrived at the port on time. The weather was mild and overcast. Disembarkation from the ship was smooth but we had to take a bus from the ship to the terminal. There was another ship disembarking at the same time so it was pretty wild around the luggage and transportation areas.
We booked a full day private tour for four people through Port Compass. This tour was around $500 for all of us. The tour covered Valparaiso, Vina Del Mar the Wine Country, and Santiago. The tour people were waiting for us with a sign when we exited the luggage area. This tour was really good and our tour guide Eduardo was great. They dropped us at our hotel at the end of the tour. It was hot and sunny in the Wine Country and Santiago.
We stayed at the Hotel Orly in Santiago. This hotel was highly rated on Trip Advisor but we considered it mediocre because the rooms were small and a bit worn. The included breakfast wasn't that great. The hotel desk staff was excellent and very helpful in giving advice, arranging taxis, luggage storage, airport transportation, etc. Be sure to negotiate the price with the taxi driver before your trip. Some of them don't run the meter and we heard that you can be taken advantage of.
We took a taxi to a market called "Los Dominicos" in the Las Condes area. This market was incredible and we consider it one of the best artisan markets we have visited in the world. The market is fairly large and nested among trees so you don't roast in the sun while you shop. There are dozens of small shops, food stalls, and benches for relaxing (for the husbands). Someone told us the market was closed on Monday but it turned out that at least 75% of the shops were open.