Great cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago on Infinity
My wife and I were on the Celebrity Infinity cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago leaving Jan. 3, 2010. The ship experience was fine. We had an oceanview cabin on Deck 2. That was what we wanted to minimize the rock and roll expected "around the Horn", and it worked out fine. Very nice cabin layout with lots of storage and a decent-sized shower. The cabin attendants were indeed very attentive but we made few demands.
Dining in the main dining room was okay. They've definitely cut back on the size and quality of the offerings relative to past cruises, though we didn't mind the smaller portions. There weren't dedicated dance instructors as on past cruises. Dancers from the show did it as part of their "day job". The Captain's Club offerings were, however, very generous with the drinks and snacks. The evening shows had much less elaborate costumes and staging than past cruises, though the dancers were very good and enthusiastic. Between the rough seas and generally cool weather, the outside pool wasn't used much. The inside warm salt water pool and whirlpools were pleasant but crowded. The workout room was very nice. Very nice library. One odd thing was the artwork all around the ship seemed to have been chosen by someone on LSD. I won't even try to describe it. The ship is a bit worn mostly in the carpeting and furnishings but it wasn't a problem for us.
We arranged airfare with Celebrity. That was okay. We paid for an air deviation to get to BA a couple of days early so we could go to Iguazu on our own. We stayed at the Amerian Portal in Iguazu. It's very nice though the restaurant seemed to be rarely open, and we had to eat dinner at the bar. The breakfast buffet was somewhat disappointing. Our experience at the falls was wonderful. We had a lovely day. We went early on the Lower Circuit. Since the falls are east facing the light lower down is best in the morning. If you take the Green Trail you can avoid the long wait for the train and the trail was almost empty when we started out. We were somewhat worried about the stairs, but we found that going down them was no problem and we came back up on the "ramp" to the Upper Circuit, hardly noticing the climb. We wondered if we'd be able to do the San Martin Island trip on the boat that involved climbing all the way down, but it turned out the island was closed that day due to the high water. (The lower circuit only takes you about halfway down.) We saw lots of butterflies, a few birds, quite a few coatis (that look like nasty racoons), and an iguana-like lizard near the Sheraton. By the time we got finished with the Upper Circuit it was much more crowded "up top". Ironically we ran into a post-cruise tour group of about 100 from the Infinity. For about $900 each they are flown in from BA by charter, bussed to Iguazu, and then herded around the falls for a couple of hours, returning to BA the same evening. We had to queue up for quite a while to get the train to the Garganta del Diablo. Fortunately by the time we got there it wasn't so crowded so that worked out okay. Here there's a longish walk to the Devil's Throat. The falls there are almost overwhelming, but seeing the face of the falls on the lower circuit is more scenic. After Iguazu we returned to BA and took a cab from Jorge Newberry airport to the ship.
That airport is very close to the docks, but finding the proper terminal was an adventure. Fortunately I had negotiated a price with the driver beforehand. The instructions given by Celebrity to get to terminal annex were a joke (like "turn right at a stack of containers"). Eventually, after asking several times, the driver found it. It didn't take long to get throught the formalities, but then we had to take a bus to the ship a km away. We got our bags after several hours and settled in. BA really needs a proper cruise terminal. The first day of the cruise was "docked" in BA. It was raining heavily the next morning, By 10 it was letting up so we ventured out to the bus to the terminal annex again. There we found a free ride to H. Stern on Av. Florida near Plaza San Martin, which is where we wanted to go anyway. We walked around there for a while, then we had to look for stamps for my wife's many postcards. We couldn't find the "correo", but a seemingly nice elderly gentlemen indicated we could buy stamps at a newstand nearby. Here we were taken in by the Great Buenos Aires Stamp scam. My wife had purchased over a dozen postcards at Iguazu and dutifully wrote them out. On the ship we were told the stamps would be something like $1.50 each. Yes, the nice gentleman at the newstand had stamps for the equivalent of about $1.50 and both gentlemen helped us put the stamps on the cards. The newstand gentleman said he would take care of mailing them. Several days later in Puerto Madryn, my wife had written more cards and put on stamps from the newstand and she wanted to mail them. We walked past a small correo at the port and she wanted to drop them off there. The man there took a look at the stamps and said they were not actually stamps but "souvenirs". They were identical to regular stamps with a bar code and "DHL" on them. The only difference is they don't say "Argentina" on them. Needless to say the batch left at the BA newstand never arrived at their intended destinations!
We didn't go on any of the Celebrity tours as they are expensive and I hate being herded around. In Montevideo we walked around on our own. Most of the interesting sights are in the old town there so that was fine. We went to the Gaucho Museum which is small but interesting. We were going to do Punta del Este on our own, but the sea was too rough to tender so the ship skipped that port. In Puerto Madryn I had arranged for a tour with UALanTour . However, the driver didn't show up. Fortunately we found Flamenco Tours on the dock and they had two seats available for slightly less than UALan wanted. That turned out to be an excellent tour. They took us to the Punta Tombo penguins. It's a long ride but a great tour. This is by far the best place to see the Magellan penguins. I highly recommend Flamenco. In Ushuaia I had reserved a rental car with Budget. I wanted to drive to the "End of the World". That worked out fine except for the weather as it was overcast and raining the whole day. The hardest part was dodging the big tour buses on the narrow muddy road. I'm sure Tierra del Fuego National Park is a beautiful place when you can see the mountains. We went to Lapataia Bay, walked the beaver trail, etc. BTW the big buses can't park where most of the little trails start so it's best to take a private van tour here. In Punta Arenas I had arranged for a tour to Otway Sound penguineria with Patagonia Adventure. The weather again was not very nice, very windy with intermittent showers. At Otway it was hard to walk into the gale and the penguins are much farther away than Punta Tombo. It was interesting but hardly worth it after PT. They also took us around town a bit. The weather around the Beagle Channel and Magellan Channel was overcast all the time. We saw the glaciers but not well. After Puerto Montt it cleared up some but by then there wasn't much to see. In Puerto Montt, I had arranged for a tour of Fruitillar, Puerto Varas, Osorno Volcano with GV Tours. They wanted $200 cash. In their meagre correspondence it wasn't clear if it was a private tour or a van. It turned out to be a van with 10 of us. Fortunately they were a nice group from the US. The day started out cloudy so a Fruitillar we couldn't see the volcanoes but by the time we passed Puerto Varas and went up the east side of the lake it had turned into a beautiful day. We saw Osorno in all its glory. We stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch and then a small ranch type place with llamas and rheas and beautiful views over the lake of Osorno. On the other side was Calbuco(?) volcano with its top blown off by a Richter 9.5 eruption some years ago. After this we went to the Petrohue Falls which were very nice, again with great views of the volcanoes. GV Tours is okay but rather pricey. Our guide was a 17-yr old student. His English was pretty good but he had had little experience as a guide. In Valparaiso we used our Celebrity transfer voucher to get to the Santiago airport. We had time to take the blue bus into town and spend several hours there. Itwas the day of the presidential elections so everything was closed including the restaurants. We wound up eating at Burger King.