We chose this itinerary for it's potental to demonstrate the capricious beauty of Mother Nature, and she did not disappoint. We sailed through gale force winds, high seas, rain and fog, but nothing could dampen our appreciation of the wonders of nature on this itinerary. The Chilean Fjords are windswept, desolate, and breathtakingly awesome to view. Due to limited times in ports because of rough weather, the high point of our journey for scenic cruising was really the morning we slid by the five glaciers in the Beagle Channel on the way in to Ushuaia. What little we could see due to the low lying clouds was spectacular. Though the logistics of the cruise did have problems, which I will mention later in this review, the beauty of one of the most desolate places on our planet more than made up for any inconveniences.
This was our second voyage on Princess. The Star Princess is a lovely ship, and though large, there are many places for you to enjoy so you never really feel too crowded, unless you are trying to tender ashore. More on this below.
The good: Dining: We chose Anytime Dining and ate primarily in the Portofino Dining Room. The head waiters Wolfgang and Lazlo(?) were excellent at getting us seated at great tables, or helping us find tables for two. They always remembered us, which was kind of nice. Our favorite waiters were Valentina and Godfredo and Jorge from Brazil, who was a great singer by the way! The food was very well prepared, and we never had to wait for a table. We ate one night at the Crown Grill and had a fantastic meal and a nice table over by the window where we could look out at a gorgeous sunset.
Stateroom: We were far aft on the Baja deck and definitely felt the high seas back there, but we loved our location. The shower was larger than the one we had on the Island Princess, and we really liked our stateroom layout and found the room clean and up to date. Our stateroom attendant, Rhoderic, was excellent. He went above and beyond the call of duty and we considered him one of the best attendants we have ever had on any cruise line.
Shore Excursions: We took a Princess excursion in Uruguay to an estancia and had the best time ever. We had to book a Princess excursion in Puerto Madryn because the weather made the scheduled trip to the Falklands out of the question and we had no plans for this new stop. We went to the Peninsula Valdez and thought it was a really great excursion. Lots of wildlife to see, including Rheas, Guanacos, Elephant Seals, Penguins, and Sea Lions. We even saw a little fox by a visitor's center.
The Not So Good: LINES: The tendering operations were by far the worst we have ever encountered on any cruise. On the day we were to tender to Puerto Montt, the line for tender tickets for people going ashore independently snaked twice around the atrium. As usual, there were some people who wanted to jump ahead in line, and this caused a near riot at one point. We only got to spend a few hours in port, and because there was only one, yes one, dock space for a single tender at a time, the lines to get back to the ship were horrendous. People were standing out in the rain for ages. It wasn't pretty. Then, in Ushuaia, same thing. One tender at a time to pick up and drop off passengers. With 2600 passengers, (with most wanting to go on shore), it was a recipe for disaster. Passengers were throwing up in the tenders while bobbing around waiting for their turn to disembark at the dock. At the end of the day, Princess enlisted a catamaran to move passengers from the dock (where we stood in freezing rain waiting for single tenders to load up) to the ship. We were out of the rain, but had to wait to unload at the ship since it was, you guessed it, one at a time. It was a real mess and unacceptable. The Star could really use some improvement in this area.
Horizon Court: The food was OK, but not much variety. For a ship of this size, we thought the buffet was small and uninspired. Breakfast was OK, but no omelet station for example, and very little variety. Every morning, same thing: an offering of fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and little pre made omelets, sausage, bacon, etc. We purchased a soda card since the only drink offerings at the Horizon Court were water, ice tea, coffee and tea. You have to ask for lemonade....At breakfast there is juice, which was nice...we are usually pretty easy to please, but we were underwhelmed with the buffet on this ship. On several sea days, they had special lunch buffets, which kind of livened things up a bit. Nothing to write home about that's for sure.