Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by travelernj: Around Cape Horn
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Around Cape Horn
We had a good time sailing aboard the Norwegian Sun around the tip of South America. Since we're used to sailing smaller ships we booked a suite to get special treatment (given the lower cost and larger number of passengers to compete with for services) aboard the Norwegian Sun. Suite was enormously large given what we had experience before. Unfortunately it was at the back of the ship and you could feel the engines when we were sailing - especially when starting out and reaching port.
We also picked NCL because we wanted free style cruising - no fixed dinner time and no need to lug formal wear on a cruise.
Staff on the ship was generally friendly and good; their English language skills were generally satisfactory. We had a concierge who was very helpful and a butler who we rarely saw once we were underway. With a suite, there was also a private dining room for breakfast and dinner, but we were with friends so couldn't always use it and when we need a More quick meal to get ready for a tour off the ship the service was too slow. We could order snacks (crudite, cheese and crackers, soft pretzels, chocolate covered strawberries, etc.) for the suite and often did so for small parties with our friends before dinner.
The food on the ship was nothing to write home about with the exception of the steak and French restaurants. To be fair, we did not eat Japanese and someone had told us that they got ill on the sushi. There were nights at dinner when rather than having to pick from several choices that I wanted, I found it hard to find something that I'd enjoy (and I'm an only modestly picky eater). Service at dinner was good but not excellent.
Breakfast was always crowded especially on port days. It was often hard to find some place to sit, especially as we headed south and it got too cold to eat out of doors on the deck. Breakfast food selection was fine but buffet style so avoid pancakes that may have been siting out a while. After leaving Montevideo, orange juice taste severely deteriorated to point where we sometimes splurged for fresh squeezed juioe (standard on the smaller ships we were accustomed to) or had not OJ at all. Once we got to Chile, this problem disappeared.
Logistics on the ship were not well handled. Very long lines to get onto ship. Bags in our NCL booked hotel before cruise needed to be out the night before even though we didn't board until 2 PM the following day and we saw them take the bags to the ship around noon. There were long lines to tender off the ship and especially back on the ship. We tracked the ship of another cruise line on the cruise and while we waited on long lines in port, they always seemed to be able to waltz back the tender without a wait. At one port, in the rain, the had us off the ship between 30-45 minutes before the buses arrived, so basically we were outside in bad weather with little cover. At another port our tender captain took the better part of 15+ minutes to secure the boat once we were at the dock. It was like a beginning driver trying to park for the first time - really incompetent.
We took lots of side excursions and I'll list them with comments. Also on other cruises, information about ports and showing what and where we would see we done more professionally. The material on NCL was really inadequate. It would have been nice for someone describing what we were seeing going around Cape Horn, the Beagle Channel and Straights of Magellen. We experience this aboard Regent ship in Alaska and it was really nice to have.
Montevideo: We took a highlights of Montevideo tour which was half of day and gave us an overview of the city. Not sure, if you are Spanish fluent, you couldn't do better on your own.
Puerto Madryn: I don't think there is much to do in town, so we took a tour to Valdes Peninsula. We spent a long time going to and returning from there with a relatively small amount of time (relative to travel time) seeing wildlife. Lunch was in a small restaurant which was clearly unable to handle the tour crowds and the food wasn't good. My suggestion, find something else at this port.
Stanley: We took the Lagoon Bluffs tour which was one the highlights of the trip. You take a bus a short ride (nothing is very far on the island) and transfer to 4 wheel drive vehicles to drive over peat down to the shore. It's an exciting ride over rutted ground. Upon arrival there is time to see a large penguin colony and have an included snack at a building by the shore. Lovely cakes and a hot drink hit the spot. Not all ships get into Stanley because of weather (primarily wind which interferes with tendering). We were lucky because the weather was pleasant and calm.
Following Stanley we sailed around Cape Horn and again weather was very good. Amazing site especially when you realize you are actually at the tip of South America. The ship had a ceremony to anoint folks to celebrate the occasion if you're into that sort of thing.
Ushuaia: We took a tour of Tiara Del Fuego National Park. Scenery was nice but not as spectacular as one might expect. This was only a partial day tour, perhaps a longer one would have taken us closer to the Andes. Town was a shopping venue if you wanted to avoid a tour.
Sailing the Beagle Channel and Straights of Magellan were spectacular and very similar to what one might see on an Alaska inland passage cruise. Leaving the Straights of Magellan was one of the few times we had rougher weather at sea. Nothing terrible. One other ship did hit bad weather at this location - dinnerware thrown around and so forth.
Punta Arenas: We took two tours here. The first morning tour was to Otway Sound which has another large penguin colony (yes we were in to penguins) and it was a really nice experience. It was not a tour I would have wanted to do in really bad weather but once again we got lucky. Afternoon tour was of Punta Arenas itself but not worth the time. Shopping in Punta Arenas was very good, especially in the main square in town. I bought a pretty wool sweater for about $15. If you wanted several you probably could have gotten per sweater price lower. They're not top quality, but $15! Other local handicraft were available also.
Puerto Chacabuco: This port is NOT ready for the big time. We took the Puerto Chacabuco & Surrounding tour which was a waste of money. But not sure what one would do at this port if you didn't take a tour.
Puerto Montt: Some pretty scenery on Petrohue Falls and Lake Esmeralda tour. There was also a boat ride. Only problem is that the things we visited were very crowded and bus logistics not well handled.
Santiago and Valparaiso: We took an all day tour since our flight home from Santiago was in the late evening. Tour is called Santiago and Vina del Mar, and it fit the bill. We saw the sights had a snack and lunch and were dropped efficiently, for once, at the airport. Only problem is they dropped us at 5 PM and airline only opened lines for boarding passes et al an hour later. So the lines were very long and there was no place to sit. Everyone had their luggage with them, so as you can imagine it was a madhouse.
In summary, although we had a good time, I would think twice before booking on NCL again. Smaller ships may be more expensive but experience is better. We may not take as many cruises but will enjoy them more. Less
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