We arrived at Santiago on the 3rd of January for a 2 day stay before our cruise. If I can give one piece of advice about our travel arrangements it is try NOT TO TRAVEL BY T.A.M., THEY WERE DREADFUL, THE FOOD WAS AWFUL, THE STAFF HOPELESS, THE ARRANGEMENTS AT SAO PAOLO CHAOTIC AND COMPLETELY UNPROFESSIONAL. ALTOGETHER A DREADFUL EXPERIENCE, AND IF I CAN POSSIBLY ARRANGE IT. I WILL NEVER TRAVEL WITH THEM AGAIN. If you are staying in Santiago at all before your embarkation, take the warnings to heart about wearing jewellery and valuables I was mugged for a little gold chain I was wearing, this was a present and has much sentimental value, but I didn't think I would be a target. Fortunately he didn't manage to snatch it but it was broken when he tried to tear it off my neck, a very unpleasant experience indeed. The ship was delayed by bad weather, so we had to wait at the hotel which was comfortable and had lunch there and were picked up about 4 p.m. The embarkation was fairly speedy as we had been streamed so didn't have too long to wait in line before receiving our documentation and being bussed to the ship, also having experienced the chaos that was Royal Carribean in the past, it was simplicity itself and getting to the cabin was smooth and easy. The only bad thing about it was, when the bus arrived at the dock at Valparaiso, we had to manhandle our own cases to the loading bay as the bus was not allowed to park nearer and there were no porters or trolleys available, not funny for anyone elderly or like me with an injured back!
The ship was fine, clean and comfortable. Our Cabins were fine, I liked that the shower and lavatory were on the outside wall next to the door with a storage/wardrobe area in front, this made the 'bedroom/living' area seperate, which I liked.
The service staff were polite and helpful at all times. I liked the decor in the public ares as well as in the dining rooms and buffet areas and the bars, an effort had been made to make the decor in each of the bars a little different. The food and food presentation was universally excellent and the service good, (however if ever tempted to try the 'Irish Lamb stew' - don't it comes as a sort of soup - very strange indeed). The food in the Horizon court which was the breakfast area and casual dining area was also good, although the breakfast buffet was not as extensive as other ships I've been on. The only problem with the Horizon court was finding a table, as often people would linger after breakfast reading books and talking etc. despite people roaming around looking for tables, and no members of staff encouraging people to move on. The Pizza and fast food bars were good. BUT THE WORST THING OF ALL WAS THE COFFEE WHICH WAS DREADFUL, I presume in an effort to get you to buy the specialty coffees, which were extra.
NOW FOR THE BAD: there was a lack of information throughout the cruise and the PR was very poor. We had booked to go on the Eco walk at our first stop Puerto Mont, which was one of the few trips which had not been canceled due to our very late arrival. We went to the Princess theatre as instructed and waited an hour to be tendered over to the shore, but when it came time for us to get on the tender, we were stopped, and directed to another tender forward, but it took so long to fill this tender as some people were leaving the ship, and it took a long time to get them and their luggage aboard, by the time we reached the shore our bus had left. There was only one bus left for the German Museum which we went on rather than waste the rest of the day. This trip was SEVERLEY curtailed due to time resstrictions, with very little time at either of the stops. We complained to the excursion staff next day about our missed tour, the young woman who initially dealt with our complaint was inexperienced and unhelpful. We spoke to her supervisor, who appologised and put all the blame on the person handling the tender boarding, he gave us a refund, which turned out to be only 10$ - ie the difference in the price of the trip we should have taken and the trip we took - the trip we didn't want, he also said he would try and get us an upgrade of some kind which never appeared!
The weather was very poor at the Amalia Glacier, but the Captain tried his best to get us as close as possible, and it was amazing.
The next problem was the visit to the Falklands which had to be canceled because of bad weather - this was a terrible dissapointment, and one would have thought that the Captain and any of the Senior Crew not actually needed on the bridge would have all been out on a charm offensive, but not a bit of it, they were all conspicuous by their absence, with only a sarcastic comment from the Captain that night at his daily report that contrary to 'all the amateur meterologists and yachtsmen' the weather had not picked up and we were unable to go to the Falklands. I thought this was a very poor showing indeed. We did not find out about our new port of call till the day after and even then it was when we asked at the excursion office what was happening it was only then we found out a letter had been delivered to the cabins, by the service staff when cleaning the cabins, but as we and I presume quite a few others hadn't been back to our cabin, so knew nothing about any letter, there was no announcement made.
we were supposed to 'Round the Horn', an announcement was made on deck as we approached that because of the poor weather we wouldn't actually be rounding the horn, however if you weren't on deck it's quite possible not to have known, and it's possible some people still don't know we didn't as no announcement was made in the cabins then or later and as we were due to go round at about 6.30 am, there weren't that many people on the deck at that time. Also the situation was not helped by the certificate which came to the cabins to say we had gone round the horn when in fact we hadn't.
It was things like this the lack of communication which really spoiled things, we know the weather plays a big part in what can and can't be achieved, but we should have been kept informed.
The entertainment wasn't great during the day either, a number of activities were on at the same time, and a member of my party went to one of the craft actvities but it wasn't a dedicated crafter taking the class, only one of the staff who knew how to do a little Origami, but who wasn't very good at explaining what to do, that's simply not good enough.
The port talks by Joe May were o.k. and the talks by Al Adams were good.
The production shows were o.k. (the first one was pretty poor, but they got better after that), but compared to our previous experience on the Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Sea, it was not nearly as good, or as professional.
If your main interest in this cruise is in going to the Falkland Islands, please be aware, as I understand after the event, only a very small proportion of cruise ships are successful in reaching the Islands as I believe there is a very high risk of poor weather making the Falklands unachievable.
We left the ship at Buenos Aires, and had 2 days here before going home. Very European, very green with lots of tree lined boulevards and little green squares etc. Very French influenced architecture. We took a city tour offered by our tour guide, which frankly wasn't great, but I believe the open top bus tour is much better, your hotel concierge will tell you where to get it. We went to the Tango show, which was excellent, very well done, and not too long, the meal was o.k., nothing special, but unfortunately El Nino was in full force and we had a very fierce storm.
We missed our arranged trip to the Alesce forest for the eco walk, so ended up going to the German museum. We had very little time as we had been delayed getting to the port, we only had 40 mins. at the museum, not enough time to look round and also to take in the views. Nice enough, but not really worth the effort, but nice views from the lakeside.
After the Amalia Glacier which was fantastic despite the weather, we went to Punta Arenas, the weather was cold and wet. Went to Ottway sound to see the Magellanic Penguins in their natural habitat, which was very special - really enjoyed this. On the way back we saw a small herd of what appeared to be Rheas (local name was something like Namoo), also a small Condor and some Llamas. This was a good trip and Punta Arenas seems to be a fairly prosperous place, but the road out to Ottway Sound is dreadful, and the bus was not air conditioned, and I was pretty unwell when we finally got to the Penguin rookery - a very rough and unmade road indeed.
We took the Catamaran tour of the Beagle channel, which was good, lots of birds, especially Cormorants of various types, and sea lions lounging and playing in the water. However the weather was very bad again, rain and mist, so not as good as it could have been, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.