This is one of those journeys I had dreamt of doing all my life. Look at a world map or globe & who would not admit to being excited about traveling round the tip of South America. I was & persuaded my wife she could be as well.I had been to the Falklands in the 80's, & wanted to see it again, & explore some of the towns & cities of Argentina & Chile. Months of planning & research via Trip Advisor & Cruise Critic forums, the cruise was booked through an internet agency, the countdown began. And what a trip !
We flew to Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo on British Airways from London, a 15 hour overnight journey. The flight was full, service was ok, but as always its a bit of a drag. Arrival in Argentina was on schedule, mid morning local time, & after a long wait for bags, sailed through the arrival formalities. ( thanks to advice gained on these forums about money exchange & taxis ). You forget about being tired, as you take in your new surroundings. We checked into the Inter Continental Hotel in central Buenos Aires. Got some sleep & set off exploring this great city. Over the next 2 days, we took in a tango show, a bus tour of the city, had some great food, & enjoyed the sun, about 30C.
Embarkation On Sunday 3rd, at 1pm, we got a taxi to the cruise terminal. From our hotel, no more than 15 minutes. We always are really excited at this point, looking for that first view of our ship. In this case Norwegian Sun. We had cruised with NCL before & love the Freestyle concept. Couldn't wait to get on board, have a cold beer & some lunch. Well, the taxi stopped on the side of a busy port road, next to a high perimeter fence. Other taxis were dropping off passengers here as well. We got out, grabbed our cases, saw a gap in the fence, & followed others through. Hordes of people, no officials in sight, hot sun...chaos. It transpired two ships were checking in. Eventually dropped our bags off, only to join another long line of people for remaining formalities. The line moved at a snails pace, no air con., few NCL reps to be seen, no water provided for the many elderly passengers in line. It dragged on & on. Without doubt the worst experience to date checking in for a cruise. 2 hours in trying conditions. Come on NCL sort this out. These are not the first impressions you want to give your guests.
On Board Having got on board, had a cold beer, ( & a complementary glass of bubbly ),& found our stateroom, everything went uphill from here. Our stateroom was on deck 8, starboard side. Plenty of hanging & storage space, very comfortable bed, ensuite bathroom with shower,( quality toiletries provided), TV with multiple channels including CNN & a selection of films, good furnishings, sofa & table, balcony( with 2 outdoor chairs & a table),small fridge, coffee maker & minibar. It was spotlessly clean. We really enjoyed our stateroom. Our room attendants kept it clean & well stocked. Sure, the odd item was overlooked, or a towel missing, but it was soon put right. The balcony was great. really pleased we opted for it. Made the most of the sunny days. Our impression of the Norwegian Sun was that it appeared to be a happy ship. With only one exception, we found the staff to be friendly, talkative in many cases, & eager to please. That doesn't mean that service was always tiptop or quick. Mistakes were made in the dining room. However, they were always rectified with an apology. Generally speaking we found the staff provided an excellent service. We always found if you smile back, say hi, & treat people with respect, you get genuine good service.
Navigating around the decks was fairly simple.Really enjoyed the small library & internet cafe. Various $ packages were available, & internet usage was popular, even if speeds were a little slow. We went to a few stage productions, & especially enjoyed the West End/Broadway musical & Peter Pan. Stargazing with the Cruise Director one night was an event not to be missed. Over 200 people on the top deck being wowed with his commentary & the incredible clear skys. Will never forget that.
What we particularly like about NCL is the choice available when it comes to food.
For breakfast, we always sat outside in the Outdoor Cafe. There was a more limited selection here than in the Garden Cafe, but as they were next to each other, you could top up your selection & head outside. When the weather was poor, we simply chose from the buffet in the Garden Cafe & took it to the Sports Bar. Same for lunch. Choice was good, well cooked & presented. Coffee/tea/hot chocolate always available. One criticism would be the layout of the Garden Cafe. Far too cramped, never enough room, & a bit of a scrum at times. Layout needs rethinking.
Dinners were special.We tried all the restaurants. Booked tables the night before with no problems. Speciality restaurants ( with extra service charges of between $10 & 20pp ) LL Adagio. Italian menu. Good wide choice & attentive service.Dined here twice. Steakhouse. Again great choice of steaks,chops,etc & all the extras. Perfectly cooked & with friendly service. Went here twice. Le Bistro. Premium dining. Good French inclined menu. Very attentive service. Twice here. Ginza. Sushi menu. First time we have had this type of food. Very tasty & again very efficient service.
Other restaurants Pacific Heights. Good menu with an emphasis on healthier cooking & dishes. No extra charge but we found you did need to book a table. Main Dining Rooms Four Seasons & Seven Seas. Dined here 3 times around 8pm. Never waited more than 5 minutes for a table. Good service & tasty food. For a pre dinner drink & some nibbles, we would go each night to Las Ramblas. Some great tapas accompanied by live jazz. We found drinks quite expensive as a whole, especially wine.
We were very lucky with the weather, especially in the first week heading south. It was lovely & sunny with light winds. Sea conditions were very calm virtually all the way to the Falklands. Winds got up a bit on the approach here, but on land the temperature was in the 20sC at Stanley. Going round The Horn, the wind got up but the seas remained fairly calm. It was misty here, but that just added to the mystery of the place. Going through the various Chilean channels, the water is calm, but the winds can be cold. When viewing the glaciers in the Beagle channel, this was the coldest day, with several layers needed. Heading north, when exposed to open seas, the ship rolled a little, especially in stronger winds. Medication against sea sickness was necessary for us.
Excursions Took six NCL excursions. Sure they are expensive, but wanted peace of mind & security. Next time to this area would research independent trips. Montevideo. Highlights. 3 hours Saw most of the city from a bus. Very good guide. Puerto Madryn Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery. full day, long drive across the Pampas to get there, about 2 1/2 hours one way. Well worth it. Thousands of Megellanic penguins & chicks. You could walk among them. Had about 1 1/2 hours there. Great day. Ushuaia In Depth. Tour of the historical prison & into the mountains. Fantastic scenery & barbecue for lunch. Punta Arenas. Trekking at Andino Park. 1/2 day. Chairlift into hills above the city & Trekking back down through forest, great to stretch the legs. About 2 mile walk. Puerto Montt. Petrohue Falls & Lake Esmeralda. Full day on bus, with one hour cruise on lake. plenty of stops in lake district. Good views of volcanos. Santiago. Concha Y Tora. Full day on disembarking ship & dropped off at airport. Good tour of city, with funicular ride to a viewpoint, & excellent tour of winery with samples & lunch.
We were on this trip to fulfill a dream. To see some amazing scenery & wildlife. At times we had to pinch ourselves. To do it in the comfort of a cruise ship, being wined & dined & in the company of some great people is something we will never forget. On this occasion we were more than happy with NCL & the Norwegian Sun.