Maiden Voyage-South America Embarkation-Buenos Aires 16 days to Valparaiso
South American embarkation ports can be very difficult to reach. We originally planned to connect via DC, due to East Coast weather leading up to our departure was not looking good, we changed our plan to Lima, Peru instead. You should be well advised that most South American countries accesses $131 per person entry fee to US citizens, if not visa.
Our flight on Lan Chile was late out of Los Angeles which resulted in broken connection in Lima, nice long layover which was not a good start. We spent 3 extra days in Buenos Aires prior to our sailing, we generally plan few extra days to avoid unplanned events.
Embarkation at BA Cruise Terminal was chaotic due to 5 ships in port, Silversea representatives were no very active in assisting arriving passengers. They were happy to stand with clipboard, but not too involved, unless approached by passengers.
We finally found our way through customs and immigration, then to shuttle bus to our ship. Once dockside, we entered the ship, then to lobby for registration and to our cabin. We were greeted by our butler and our room Stewart, they were pleasant and greeted us with a smile. Our luggage arrived shortly there after and our butler asked if we wished to have him unpack our bags and stored. Very nice touch, but my wife insisted on doing it herself.
Our Mid-ship Veranda cabin was very spacious, approximately 376 square feet, full bath, large separate shower with rain shower head, walk in closet, two full size mirrors with built in flat screen TV and separate sitting area with curtain divider. Very nice in room movie feature, there are 378 films loaded in the system which allows you to browse and watch film of your choice.
This was our first experience on Silversea, have cruised mostly on all inclusive mid-size ships. The staff and their service level matches our experience with similar class ships. We were always addressed by our name, everywhere we went, our needs were anticipated most of the time. There were instances when we had to repeat our request, especially during rush hour in the main dinning room.
Our favorite dinning venues were Main Dinning room, Pool Grill and La Terrazza for lunch and breakfast. Main Dinning room menu was to our liking, Pool Grill for stone steak dinner(amazing). Two for fee specialty restaurants did not interest us, simply because of negative feedback from those who sampled them. Seishin Restaurant was not authentic enough and La Champaign over rated. I have not encountered extra fee for dinning on any other all inclusive ships, but I am sure there is a market for this type of service. We sampled the Star Supper Club, music too loud and was not impressed with their bite size menu, novel idea though!
One other issue on this ship is their smoking policy. The Panorama Lounge allows smoking on one side, it might as well be the entire lounge. It was suffocating for non smokers and we had to escape to main bar area on deck 5, but it was always packed with people and hard to find available seating. They also allow smoking in cabins which really surprised us for safety reason. When we walked through the hallway on our deck, we smelled strong cigarette smoke coming from several cabins. There was never a mention of no smoking policy in cabins. Regent Seven Sea for example does not allow smoking anywhere except in the smoking lounge or out on the deck area.
There are couple of small things worth mentioning. In the Panorama Lounge, the doors leading out to the deck has large door handles on the inside, but small knob like handle on the outside which makes it difficult to grasp and open? Internet Cafe is situated in a small area and not easy to find.
The Main Showroom is large enough with very small stage and they do not offer beverage service at anytime, so we carried our own from the bar. The quality of entertainment was sufficient, not impressive.
Now about our voyage! Ocean is rough in this part of the World , no matter when you travel, this was their summer. It was windy and rough seas, especially first couple of days sailing to Port Stanly. Our second day at sea was roughest I have experienced with ship this size. It felt like the ship was planning during the night, the sound of hull smashing against the water was loud and unsettling. It lasted most of the night.
What can you say about Port Stanly? It is wind swept pile of rocks in the middle of nowhere. I guess most cruise-ships make this call, because there isn't much else around. We were there for several hours mingling with those adventurer who were getting ready to depart on Antarctic expedition on Russian trawler.
We departed for possible Cape Horn encounter, but weather was so rough our Captain decided against the venture and instead ducked into Beagle Channel toward Ushuaia, Argentina. Then the CNN reported about 8.8 major quake in Chile, our destination. We had 9 days, before our scheduled arrival in Valparaiso, so crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. At the same time our thoughts were with those who perished and injured by the quake, feeling little guilty with our comfort in luxury.
We participated in ship sponsored shore excursions, prices ranged from $100 to $2000, very expensive as with others. There were to complimentary excursions included with the cruise, the Silverse Experience which is a nice touch. We purchased 3 other excursions and they were interesting and quality of lunches and service was in line with ship's standard which included wine and beer with every meal.
We sailed through the Chilean Fjords to Punta Arenas, Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Montt and finally Valparaiso. Captain kept us informed of condition in Valparaiso as we approached our final destination. The damage was minimal in Valparaiso as well as Santiago. We scheduled ourselves to stay in Santiago for 3 days which turned out to be good move on our part. Those extra days allowed Lan Chile to return their operation back to near normal, our flight home was operating as scheduled on the 11th. On our last day in Chile, we were struck with 7.2 after shock on the 23rd floor of Marriot which rattled our nerves, but just in time for our departure. The airport ticket counter area was in the tent, because the second floor above the counter area had collapsed and 3 hours before departure, we were allowed into the terminal to our departure gate. We were happy to feel those wheels of our plane clear the runway!