Reservations: I booked myself & 3 other couples which made us a small group of 8. I escorted the group and was responsible for most aspects of the cruise. I was shocked & dismayed when I booked two cabins as a guarantee category G with the expectation that we would be likely to be upgraded since there was widespread availability on the ship when I did so. I booked a 3rd cabin for one of my group 3 days later and found out that the two guarantee reservations had already been assigned even though the ship was sailing in about 50 days, and there was still widespread availabilty in most categories. I had been assigned cabin 4001, the most far forward in category on the lowest deck which I consider to be the worst outside cabin on the ship. Through persistence on my part, I had a supervisor change the two guarantee category G cabins to EE cabins on deck 6. I had numerous conversations with the sales rep about this seemingly fraudulent guarantee policy which assigned cabins almost immediately instead of assigning cabins much closer to the sailing date which has been my experience on every other cruise line I have sailed with. She told me that their policy was to assign guarantee cabins at their discretion and could assign them at any time after booking. She even sent me the rules for booking guarantee categories. She said that NCL only guaranteed that we would have cabins assigned at our guarantee level, and there was no guarantee of an upgrade. I realize that, but to be assigned the worst cabin (in my opinion)in a category within days of a booking, is not a real guarantee since there is no real expectation of an upgrade. The sales rep told me after she checked with NCL corporate in Miami that nothing could be done for me even up to the day prior to the cruise. Prior to the cruise: Arrival in Santiago one day prior to the cruise: We stayed at the Radisson Empresarial for the night which we booked ourselves for $94 per room. It was comfortable, and the service was good. I arranged for a private tour for my group with Cristobal Yanez of Chile About (www.chileabout.com) (email@example.com). The afternoon tour of Santiago was good one with Willy as our guide. The cost per person was $35. Next day, Chileabout provided transfers for us from Santiago to Valparaiso. Willy was the guide again. The cost of transfer for us and our luggage as well as a tour of Valparaiso & Vina del Mar was $56 per person. We arrived at the ship at 1:45 in time to check in and enjoy lunch aboard at the Garden Cafe. The embarkation process went fairly smoothly. We were able to board the ship within about 45 minutes & enter our cabin. Ship personnel were helpful and organized throughout the process. Cruising exeriences: Day 1 At sea: A glorious day to leave Valparaiso weatherwise. It was a beautiful city as we sailed away. Each evening my group of 8 ate together in the Seven Seas dining room.
MEALS: Dinner at the Seven Seas was uniformly well prepared and very tasty throughout our cruise. However, the service was spotty and inconsistent. We had some excellent servers and some who seemed to be not well motivated to provide high quality service. For example, some nights we were quite rushed to complete dinner prior to the 9:30 show even though we were seated by 7:45 each day. On at least 4 nights, there was no offer of a beverage (coffee or tea) after the entree was served. For breakfast, I was surprised that a bar waiter came around offering fresh squeezed orange juice for $2.50 extra. I would think that would be complimentary if requested by the guests. Guests in my group found the pancakes very small. One day for breakfast it took me 40 minutes to get a glass of pineapple juice, an English muffin, and a cup of herbal tea despite the fact that the other 5 people at the table were served their orange juice, fruit plates, bagels, cereal, and eggs before I was served any of the 3 modest items I had ordered. I had to ask the waiter several times when no food or beverage appeared. I finally asked the maitre-d what the problem was with the service. After that the waiter was more solicitous and hurried to make up for his lack of service. Excellent servers at other meals were Reynaldo & Ika We ate breakfasts & lunches in the Seven Seas or the Garden Cafe primarily. The Garden Cafe provided a substantial amount of choice, and the food was prepared & presented well despite the fact that the Garden Cafe was a very busy place on many occasions. Tables were cleaned fairly promptly to allow other dinners to find tables without too much difficulty.
Day 2: At sea: We played trivia every day as a group and enjoyed the experience, though some of the answers the ship provided were wrong. The staff was friendly & enhanced our enjoyment of the process every day. Ynochka & Pedro were good hosts. Bingo was also fun with the exception of the computerized games which took a great deal of the fun away from the traditional bingo where guests manually played their cards instead of passively watching the computerized screen. A highlight for me and several of my companions were the lectures - especially the photography expert, Ernie Pick. It was something we looked forward to every sea day. He was knowledgeable & entertaining. The historians aboard also presented informative lectures, which several of us enjoyed during our cruise.
Day 3: Puerto Montt I arranged a private tour with GV Tours for 10 people. (firstname.lastname@example.org) (email@example.com). The cost was $75 per person to be paid in cash. The tour with Michael was wonderful as we saw Fruitillar, Lago Llanquihue, Osorno Volcano, Puerto Varas, Vincente Perez Rosales National Park & Petrohue Waterfall. We also stopped for an included lunch and met with the owner Gail Stein. We were to meet our tour at 8:30, but we couldn't leave the ship until about an hour late. This was despite the fact that I had spoken with the ship's group coordinator, Yahira, who gave me tender tickets & told me we would be ashore by 8:30.
Day 4: Puerto Chacabuco: We all arranged for the NCL tour of Patagonia Nature In Depth. Fernando, our guide, did not provide much information after his initial talk upon arriving in the park. Several of our group asked him to provide more information, but he was always too concerned that we arrive at the lunch place in time. We actually were one of the earlier groups to arrive for lunch. My wife and another guest in our group filed a complaint with the shore excursion personnel aboard the ship saying they wanted Nature in Depth & not just a walk in the woods & were refunded 15% of the cost of the tour.
Day 5: Sailing through the fjords was cold and nasty as we started through the fjords. We went past the glaciers too early since the sun hadn't risen yet. So, it was dark & dreary as many of the passengers were freezing on deck. Plus there were poor conditions to photograph what should have been a signature travel day. Later in our passage, as the sun rose, the scenery became easier to see & enjoy. I would strongly recommend that for the photographers aboard that a passage through the fjords after the sun was up would have been much better.
Day 6: Cruise through the Straits of Magellan: there were rough seas & several of my group were not feeling well. The scenery was great to see, and we enjoyed being on deck to see Chile's marvelous beauty.
Day 7: Punta Arenas: Two of my group did a tour of Punta Arenas with Chile About with Francesa as the guide. It was a private tour, $73 per person. They came back raving about their experience. The rest of our group walked around the city - shopped, saw the sights, and went to the internet cafe near the cathedral.
Day 8: Glaciers & Beagle Channel sailing, Ushuaia: We all did the ship's tour of the Beagle Channel on a catamaran & a visit to the National Park. This was our favorite day of the cruise. The weather was ideal, & we loved the chance to get up close to the animals as we sailed through the Beagle Channel. We even saw a whale in the channel. Day
9: Cape Horn: This day was rough as the weather was nasty. But it was quite an experience for us to sail around the Cape as the sun rose.
Day 10: Stanley, Falkland Islands: 6 of our group walked around the island & the port of Stanley, shopping and seeing the sights. Two of our group chose to do the Stanley sightseeing from NCL. They enjoyed the experience. Princess Anne was in residence on that day, & we think she flew in a helicopter around our ship.
Day 11: Sea day: We did the usual on board,trivia, bingo, lectures, & leisurely enjoyed the day at sea
Day 12: Puerto Madryn: Another guest arranged a private tour which was $58 per person, plus $15 per person to enter the National Park. We saw Peninsula Valdes, Calleata Valdes, & Punta Norte. We saw sea lions, an orca, & penguins. The road was rough since we traveled 2 & 1/2 hours over mostly gravel roads. We were very unhappy with the guide and driver since we told them when we first started that our primary goal was to see the penguins. They gave us much too much time at the visitor center and Punta Norte then said the driver was concerned that we would get back too late if we went to the penguins. We insisted and said we would give up lunch and spend less than 10 minutes at what was supposed to have been our highlight. We got to the penguins with many other tours and made it back to the ship with an hour to spare. I feel the guide and driver just didn't want to bother - figuring lunch was easier for them. It was very disappointing, and everyone was stressed with the timing of the tour and our concern that we could even miss the ship's sailing time.
Day 13: At sea day: Day 14: Montevideo: A private tour was arranged with firstname.lastname@example.org - our guide was Yanilla. The cost was $45 per person to be paid in cash. The tour was great. We covered much of Montevideo on our 7 hour tour. I highly recommend this tour. Montevideo was a famulous city with so much to offer.
Day 15: Buenos Aires: We again had difficulty disembarking. There were extremely long lines again to leave the ship. I had arranged with Yahira, the group coordinator aboard, who assured me wy small group would be off between 8:15 - 8:30. We left the ship at 9:25. She apologized when I saw her as we left the ship and said the ship arrived later than expected. I arranged a private tour of Buenos Aires that was 7 hours. Our guide, Max, was great. We used Smart Choice (email@example.com) Soledad was our contact. The cost per person was $55 & included a great & comprehensive tour of the city as well as storage of our luggage & later delivery of it to the airport.
Entertainment: Overall we enjoyed the shows. The best shows were Mr. Producer & Que Noche. The last show, Cirque Pan, was overdone & disappointing. I think the company tried to do too much in the way of dancing, staging, and costumes. The company was very talented and proved that during each of their performances. We loved Bassilio, the funny & talented magician. The German Juggle Boy was entertaining as well as Elvy Rose, & a singer from the dance company.
Stateroom: The stateroom was good with lots of storage space and a king-size bed. There was a couch that could function as an additional bed. The steward, Adolpho, was very efficient. Every request was treated quickly. Unfortunately, he had a dental problem and wasn't able to perform his duties for several days after his surgery. Other stewards filled in for him with the same quality of service. One issue came up with the laundry service which upset my wife. We sent a partial bag of laundry halfway through the cruise. Several hours after we did that, we received a notice that laundry sent in the next day, would be a full bag price - (we had only sent in a few necessary items a few hours prior). The ship's personnel said there was nothing they could do despite the fact the laundry had just been received that evening. Of course, after my wife was adament, they were able to send our bag back unwashed so we could add more items to it for the full bag price the ship offered that day. Summary: Overall we enjoyed the cruise. The itinerary was great. We enjoyed the ports we stopped in. It was great traveling with a group of 8. Most of us did not enjoy Free Style and though it worked for us because we were our own group, thought it would be a problem for people traveling by themselves. Every meal would be spent meeting new people and asking the same get acquainted questions without getting to know anyone or making friends with our dinner companions like we had on previous cruises.