We arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina around 11:20am, after flying through the night. We collected our luggage and made our way to the group representative waiting for us in the terminal. It was quite warm in Buenos Aires, so were looking forward to getting on board quickly and being able to change from our winter clothing to something more appropriate.
We arrived at the pier around 1:30 pm. The pier was looking quite congested as the Sun was joined by RCI's Radiance of the Seas. Due to the amount of people, we weren't quite sure where we were supposed to be, so I asked one of the reps stationed outside if there would be a special Latitudes embarkation. I was told there is no Latitudes in Buenos Aires. Not a problem, we got into line behind a nice British couple and happily started chatting away. The boarding was extremely warm and no fans or air conditioning were in evidence. We had many older passengers who could no longer stand in line due to the extreme heat and many were seated in the front area and quite a few others required wheelchairs. There was no water or iced ted provided and this is one of the worst embarkations we have ever encountered. We finally made it to our cabin around 3:30 pm after having our passport checked numerous times along with the required Argentine immigration forms.
Our cabin, 4248, was located on the starboard side of deck 4. It was a reasonably, good sized, outside cabin with a large porthole. The cabin was clean and well laid out and we were happy to be able to shower and change prior to sailing!
Muster was at 4:30pm and probably lasted way too long for all of us as we had just come in from the heat! We sailed around 6 pm towards Montevideo, Uruguay.
We met up with some of our cruise critic friends and made our way to the Four Seasons restaurant for dinner. Service was mediocre for the evening meal and our dinner companion had to keep asking for a "diet" coke from the barman, not a regular coke. She had purchased a soda card and it appears at times if a tip is not forthcoming, you do not receive the best service with a soda card. This exchange actually resulted in a disagreement between the barman and our cc friends and we did speak with the Maitre'D at the end of our meal.
Upon arrival in Montevideo, we grabbed a free shuttle to the one of the more famous leather stores; from there we walked around the Plaza Independencia as well as the waterfront. We had a nice day in port with beautiful weather.
Our cruise critic Meet and Greet was scheduled for 12/9/08. This was a day at sea and our group events coordinator arranged our meet in the Observation Lounge, port side on deck 12. I arrived a few minutes early to put out name tags and pens. A table had been set up with cookies, something they called orange juice (this was truly a watered down version of Tang) and coffee. I believe we had about 35-40 people and we were joined by the captain and his senior officers shortly after the start of our meet. Quit a few of us stayed for a long time chatting about previous cruises and things we were hoping to see on this voyage. We had a wonderful group and my only regret is that we didn't get enough time to spend with so many others that we enjoyed meeting.
We arrived in Puerto Madryn on 12/11. We joined cc members Wernew2cruising, Ljohio and Masik on the pier to see if we could get an independent tour to Puerto Piramides for whale watching. Masik had also brought along another couple, so we had 10 of us and we set out to find a large van. We were greeted at the end of the pier by many companies and started speaking with a young man about where we would like to go and what we would like to do. Unfortunately at this time, the other couple started arguing with our tour guides about the whales not being in residence in Puerto Madryn as was told to him by a former submarine captain from Puerto Madryn. To make a long story short, this couple argued with the tour operator, our guide and other cc members. This interaction had a very negative impact on our time spent in this beautiful, protected world heritage site. The cc members who took the cruise to see whales, refused to join this couple on the tour. The six of us who stayed behind had a pleasant lunch at a waterfront restaurant, then, we walked around the town to get some more photos. We spent a pleasant few hours on the Valdes Peninsula. The water is beautiful and we could see some sea lions with their young, many guanacos, birds and sheep along the way. Our tour guide, a teacher, was excellent and we enjoyed her pleasant narration on the long ride.
We had a day at sea between Puerto Madryn and Stanley, so we decided to burn off some calories in the gym. The ship had quite a nice gym, not huge but well appointed for the size of the Sun. There were four elliptical machines, four recumbent bikes, about 8-10 treadmills, 2 stationary bikes, three elliptical type stair stepper machines, one regular stepper and an assortment of weight machines and free weights. As is the norm, treadmills filled up very quickly and many passengers did not adhere to the 30 minute limit signs posted all over the gym. After a few complaints, the gym managers started watching more closely in the busy morning hours. Steve and I made it a point to go very early or later in the afternoon!
We had very nice weather tendering into Stanley and we only needed a light jacket or a sweatshirt as the sun was shining brightly. We were met at the pier by the buses from Gypsy Cove. It was $20 roundtrip and there was usually a bus available to return whenever one wished. This area was quite beautiful and we did a lot of walking around the cove. We were unable to get close to the beach due to the landmines still in the beach area, but we did see many penguins along the beach and hillsides and we took beautiful shots of the bay. We returned after a couple of hours and stopped in at a traditional English pub for lunch then, walked along the waterfront and did a little souvenir shopping before returning to the ship.
We left Stanley around 4 pm and headed for Cape Horn. What had been a warm, lovely day, suddenly started to turn cold and blustery, and completely fitting for Cape Horn! We had rocky seas but nothing too bad and we did venture outside frequently to take pictures. As luck would have it, wernew2cruising had procured a front suite three days prior to sailing so we were able to enjoy our trip around the Horn in total comfort!
Ushuaia, Argentina is the gateway to Antarctica and every bit as beautiful as its photos. We were told they had not seen the sun for two months prior to our arrival. Since our time was very limited, the six of us disembarked early to find a driver/guide to Tierra del Fuego national park. Naturally, there was no problem finding transport, the only problem was finding an English speaking guide! We paid a little bit more than the average $25 per person but we had a nice van, driver and guide and we were on our way to the park at the end of the world. The park is magnificent and a definite must see. There is a post office in the park where you can mail postcards stamped with the "end of the world" on them. Our driver provided an excellent history about the area and we have many postcard worthy photos of our time in the park. We returned to the pier around noon and did a bit of shopping on the pier. Tickets to the train at the end of the world and transport to the train can be bought at the pier for $60 per person.
We left Ushuaia about an hour late and headed towards the Beagle for glacier cruising. Since we did the cruise from Buenos Aires, our cabin was perfectly situated on the starboard side of the ship. The weather was getting quite cool in the channel and we started the glacier viewing at around 5:30 pm. A disembodied voice over the speaker announced all the pertinent information about each glacier and a fact sheet was also provided in our cabin. The scenery is absolutely stunning, but make sure you have warm clothes! Hats, gloves, scarves and jackets are necessary and I used them all!
We arrived in Punta Arenas on 12/15. Since this was a tender port, Ljohio was kind enough to get tender tickets for the all six of us as we had an independent tour to Magdalena Island scheduled for 10:15am. We had no problem finding the office of our tour operator about 3 blocks away. We joined our other cc members Cosalamx, luv2getaway and Masik on a small boat tour to Isla Magdalena and Isla Marta. Isla Magdalena is amazing and totally covered in penguins! We had a nice hike around the island for about one hour then, we all returned to the boat for a bumpy ride to Isla Marta to see the seals and sea lions. Wernew2crusing returned to the ship due to illness along with Ljohio, Steve and I struck out to find some lunch and shopping prior to returning to the ship.
Our next two days were to consist of cruising the Strait of Magellan along with the Patagonic Channels. We had rough seas, high winds and cold weather. Many passengers were seasick and I know they probably weren't pleased that we turned around and headed back into the Strait when the captain received a distress call from the HMS Endurance. At the time, the captain provided us with very little information other than to tell us they were four hours from us and we were closest to them. I doubt that any passenger required an explanation about why we needed to assist a ship in distress, but many were upset that they weren't provided much information. We arrived in the area around 1:30 am and stayed until 8:30 am. Due to this call, we missed Puerto Chacabuco. Many converged upon reception for return of port fees! They were a whopping $5.13 per person! The captain said he would do some extra cruising through the Channels to make up the missed port. While we were disappointed, the Fjords were spectacular and we quickly forgot our missed port.
We had an NCL arranged horseback riding tour in Puerto Montt, so, we headed down to the main lounge at 9:00 am. Our NCL guide took us down to back stairs and we were on the tender within minutes! It was a dreary morning and we were getting some rain. Unfortunately since it was not cold, I took only a light jacket, no hat. Luckily we were provided rain slickers at the beautiful El Colote stables. Our horses were well groomed and well fed and I could almost see mischievous glints in their eyes as we took off on our trail ride around the Lake District. Our guide, Yaqueline, provided us with lots of information about the area and answered many questions on the two hour ride. We ended our ride with a spectacular gallop down by the beach before returning to the stable to rest our sore bottoms! Our driver from the stable dropped us in town and we had a nice lunch before walking back to the pier.
We arrived in Valparaiso early Sunday morning and disembarked amid the chaos even before they called our color. Eight of us cc members were taking an independent, all day, extended tour of Valparaiso prior to being dropped at the airport for our late flights home. Since Steve and I were the last ones to get our luggage, the other cc members set off to find our driver. They finally located him by the Infinity pier! We had a really great tour of the wine country, Valparaiso, Renaca and Santiago. Prior to being dropped at the airport, we concluded the tour with a visit to the Virgen atop San Cristobal hill. We were definitely ready to head home by the time we were dropped at the airport!
Our overall view of the Norwegian Sun is that the Freestyle doesn't work well. The service goes from excellent to mediocre due to the fact you never form a personal bond with any of the help. The buffet line (only one line in the Garden Café) doesn't flow well and others are constantly cutting in and pushing in front to get what they want. The food in the buffet goes from adequate to very good. Food in the dining rooms is very good to excellent, but be careful what you order! If you think that baked flounder might not be the best choice, don't order it! Don't expect meals like you would have on other ships, there is no lobster night per se. The last night offered a seafood linguini which contained a lobster tail that was either under or over cooked along with scallops, shrimp and mussels. Another night, a good tasting roast beef was listed on the menu as "prime rib". It was good, but it wasn't prime rib! The pay restaurants are not worth the money that is being charged but we did feel our "romance package" that NCL offers for $79 was an excellent value. We had an excellent meal/service in Le Bistro. Il Adagio offers tasty food, but it is a far cry from good "Italian" food. Drink service in the sports bar/pool area was very good while it was downright rude in the Dazzles Nightclub. They now offer fresh juice on the bar menus only (quite a high fee from $2.50 to $3.50 per glass) and serve watered down Tang and apple juice in the breakfast area/dining rooms. Iced tea only during lunch. NCL asked what would be the one thing I would change on my comment card, this would be it. Offer iced tea, lemonade and punch as well as real juice.
We will sail with them again and did put down a future cruise deposit for our $100 on board credit. I am hoping they will make some positive changes prior to our next adventure!