We arrived to the Santiago airport to board the transfer bus to Valparaiso and were told by HAL staff the ship was delayed in leaving due to the Code Red. We were given a letter by HAL explaining the influenza outbreak, the current sanitation being performed and we would be given a $15 ship board credit due tot he delay. The letter also offered a full refund if someone felt uneasy about sailing with this Code Red situation. Very forthcoming in my cruise experiences! The transfer buses went to the Sheraton hotel in Santiago and there we waited until 2:30 PM until the go ahead was received to drive to the port. There were plenty of staff in the Sheraton conference room were we sat at tables with drinks and sandwiches for 4 hours. The Sheraton charged $5 for 3 hours of Internet if you had a laptop so we used our skype to call people and check emails. After a slow drive and sometimes in circles around the Valparaiso town square we check in at the port terminal around 5:30 PM.
The staff were professional and quick with check in and getting our luggage to us. Once in the Lido, we all got a free glass of champagne and it had been a very long day for those who traveled a long distance the night before. First port of call was Puerto Montt, Chile and we had a full day with chef Richard Knoblach and the Taste of Chile, fresh fusion excursion. It was limited to a small group and we were bussed from the port to the fish monger, organic produce farm and then the restaurant Richard uses for cooking the menu. There were too many of us to help cook so we drank lots of Chilean wine and ate many delicious food courses until we almost burst. It was a fun adventure for foodies alike.
Sailing the channel to see the Chilean fjords and Amalia glacier were gorgeous and much more scenic than Alaska, breathtaking! Punta Arenas, Chile was an easy taxi ride for $8 to the town center where local handicrafts can be purchased. I bought hand knitted scarfs,hats and dolls for $5 to 10 each, a colorful handmade sweater for $20 and locally made jewelry for Christmas gifts. Having $1 bills is a good plan since I used all I had to buy these items. Diagonally across the street is Cyber Net, a clean and nice place to use desk top or laptop computers for $2 an hour. Clean restrooms and delicious hot chocolate and coffee for about $2 each. Many shipmates used local mini vans and taxis to go to Otway penguin preserve for about $30 and walked among the penguins. Some said its best to go first thing while the penguins are active and then they shopped in the town center on the way back to ship. It is a one hour drive each way to Otway so plan time accordingly.
Port of Ushuaia, Argentina, we booked the beagle penguins channel viewing by boat and it was a highlight tour by catamaran boat. The excursion was 6 hours and included a small island with herons and an island with Magellan penguins and sea lions. Two hours into the sailing, we reached the furthest point with the mass of Magellan's and some Gentoo penguins. The boat gets right up to the island for lots of picture taking so people who have trouble walking can get a full view of the penguins without leaving the boat. During this excursion, no one leaves the boat and there is a snack bar for purchase of food and drinks. This excursion was run well and narration was live in English and Spanish. Some people took a taxi from Ushuaia to the national park and saw foxes and those who took the train excursion said was not worth the cost and disappointing. Ushuaia is worth walking through town for its uniqueness.
Cape Horn cruising was smooth but the weather was foggy and high seas so we couldn't dock at the Falklands. We were promptly given a refund for the booked shore excursion.
Montevideo offers a quick walk to the Mercardo del Puerto where vendor after vendor cooks the best meats and chickens and you can sit at their bar and eat and drink and also get an empanada in the market area. Some of the souvenir shops will negotiate with the price if you pay in cash. Small Internet shop nearby, $3 for an hour. Internet near the port is $6 an hour.
Half way through sailing the Code Red was lifted and the pools, hot tubs and library were opened. Self service laundry uses quarters and the front desk will change US $ for quarters. As the cruise days went along, more and more washers went out of service. The SpeedQueen washers and dryers do a terrific job, $2 for wash including soap and $1 for dryer. Bring quarters, its easier! The signature drink card is about $62 and is good for 10 signature bar drinks. Typical cabins, good staff especially working overtime to stabilize the code red and great entertainment. The culinary arts center had informative demonstrations and the Pinnacle Grill booked reservations quickly and none were available 2 days into the cruise.
Overall, HAL staff were well organized and responsive to the changing situations.