This was a most disappointing cruise, but had the potential of being a wonderful trip with proper management. We booked through Grand Circle Travel. Not only does the quality of the food need to be improved, but the manner in which people are accommodated when they are served. We ate at the Garden Cafe often. Sometimes this was done because of time constraints. About half of the time, after we had filled our plates, there was no room and we carried our plates to the sports bar and on the deck. The schedules for the Cafe were not adjusted according to port hours. So, if we hit a port at 7:00 in the morning, the Cafe was overwhelmed because there was basically no where else to eat at 6:30 in the morning. Also free drinks were served to all passengers in one hour in one area which was chaotic. It would be better to not offer the free drinks at all if management can not determine how to do it in an orderly manner. There was also excessive wait time for disembarking on numerous occasions. The shows were mediocre to poor except for Fabio Zini, Cirque Pan, and the Argentinean Folkloric Dance Show. The moderator was constantly asking for applause. Our thought was that if the show or act deserved applause, we would give it. The lectures on the ports by the English couple were the highlights of our time on board. We also appreciated the Spanish classes. A special night highlighting local foods from Chile,
Argentina, and Uruguay would have added to an immersion into the local cultures. The constant sales pitches both verbally and on paper were annoying. They were a turn off. The lack of local crafts, books about the areas being visited, and postcards for sale in the shops on board, was unbelievable. It seemed as if the cruise lines didn't care about our itinerary. We could have been going around in circles in the middle of the ocean. In fact, by accident, we discovered that a log book and tourist guide plus postcards were hidden behind the front desk. The excursions were extremely overpriced. In one case, a walking tour in Montevideo that cost $59 per person through NCL, cost only $60 total for four people with an excellent private tour guide. Only two of the four excursions we took were even near to being worth the price. We missed two ports out of seven because we had food poisoning at Puerto Montt and because passengers were not allowed to disembark at the Falkland Islands on a beautiful reasonably calm day. On this day the ship had too many sick passengers. When we had food poisoning, the medical staff was responsive and treated us immediately, even in the middle of the night. Other staff made sure we sanitized our hands but they failed to clean the tables we ate on or change the table cloths. We had to ask that our table be cleaned numerous times and sometimes just gave up on asking to have them cleaned. One of the highlights of the trip was being able to have a banana every day.
Three of our ports are not on your list below. These are Puerto Chacabuco, Punta Arenas, and Puerto Madryn. Chacabuco was very rural but interesting when viewed from the bus. The area visited in Aiken del Sur Park was lead by a well qualified guide, but we didn't see much of it. The walk was very short. Time would have been better spent taking a local bus to Puerto Aisen and exploring it on our own. It would have been a chance to meet the local people.
At Punta Arenas, we took the excursion to Andino Park, a skiing area. The lifts, questionable on the safety end, took us to the top of the hill for a great view of the surrounding area including the city. We were led in an energetic two mile hike down to the club lodge for snacks. We loved seeing the ski area and stretching our legs with a short hike. Afterwards, we had time to walk around town to see the historical sites, visit a department store, and eat lunch before boarding the ship again.
Puerto Madryn was also somewhat isolated but a fairly large city. We took the excursion to Peninsula Valdes, a nature reserve listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The trip was long but rewarding. We got to see the sheep estancias as well as much wildlife. Again, I wish that we could have spent more time in port so that we could have experienced the city itself.