Star Princess Cruise Review by John Shearer: Falklands and Cape Horn Adventure : great start bad ending!
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Falklands and Cape Horn Adventure : great start bad ending!
My wife and I booked this cruise as part of our Ruby Wedding anniversary. We chose Princess Cruises as they had an excellent reputation for service etc. Our balcony cabin was most comfortable and our Mexican Cabin attendant was very helpful. We particularly enjoyed the "anytime dining" and had much fun meeting new passengers every dinner - my wife and I speak fluent Spanish so we had many happy dinners with Argentine, Chilean, Brazilian passengers apart from meeting people from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. No delays in seating etc : the staff has this well worked out. This was one of the highlights of the cruise. We also used the Horizon Court Restaurant upstairs which was also great. Overall the food on board was first class and certainly better than on our previous cruise on P&O's Arcadia. We did not use any "special restaurants" like Sabatini's as the food in the "normal" restaurants was so good.
On the entertainment side the tango group and dancers were very More accomplished and we certainly enjoyed "Skywalkers". However we found the shows in the Princess Theater poor by comparison: certainly far inferior to what was on offer on the Arcadia. Perhaps it is easier on the Arcadia where 95% of the passengers are British.
The ports of call were all very interesting and different and the tender disembarkation's were all very well organised and smooth - even with the inclement weather at Stanley! It was a pity we could not reach Punta Arenas as high winds at Ushuaia delayed our departure. However we had a very scenic cruise along the Beagle Channel which more than compensated. Two days out of Valparaiso the earthquake in Concepcion occurred. We felt nothing as the ship was at sea in deep water. However we followed the terrible events unfolding on our cabin TVs as we were sailing towards Valparaiso. It was then clear to most passengers that Princess Customer Service started breaking down. There was very little communication on board and everything had to be vetted by California. We had our flights/cruise all booked and paid for by Princess and we were therefore told "not to worry". The ship docked at Valparaiso on schedule but all passengers flying out had to stay on board as Santiago Airport was still closed. On midday Tuesday (March 3rd) the ship left dock and anchored in the bay at Valparaiso till Thurs morning. We checked twice on Weds at the Customer Service desk (long queues all the time!) and we told "no problem you are with Princess". After dinner on Weds we were asked to go to the CS Desk and told that we had to book our own flights back to London with Iberia! We were given 5 Chilean telephone numbers but none of these worked as it was then after 9.00 p.m. We then heard that there was a group of British Passengers in the Excursions Office. We were there for about 90 minutes arguing with the Purser who said "Santa Clara (Princess HQ) were doing all they could". Eventually we were given flights back by TAM for the following Tuesday which meant 5 nights in Santiago. We were given telephone numbers of Hotels which we had to book ourselves! When we asked "who is paying" the Purser said "you are but keep receipts".
On arrival in Santiago my wife and another lady went to the TAM offices In Santiago and were able to get earlier flights back on the Saturday. Princess had a representative in the Hotel but all they did was to offer advice - passengers had to do the legwork. We did leave on Saturday but we even had to pay for our own transfer to the Airport!
On return to the UK I have had several exchange of letters with Princess UK via my travel agent. They have refused to consider any recompense for the costs of accommodation and meals in Santiago, despite regulation EU261/2004. After three letter exchanges (they take 28 days to reply) I have now been asked to approach Iberia directly, despite the fact that Princess did the bookings!
It is a pity that a good cruise ended with frustration and bad feeling all around. My wife and I helped a number of non Spanish speaking passengers for whom this was an even greater nightmare. All this says to me that the Hotel Management on board the Star Princess did not match up to the quality of the ship, its layout etc. Clearly the earthquake is a very rare and unpredictable occurrence - however it is also true the Princess systems/training did not cover events such as these. Less
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Cabin review: BBA317
Our cabin was A317. Plenty of closet space which separate of bedroom area. Balcony was very spacious although I did not like the balcony flooring - type of rubber/plastic and certainly not decking type of flooring. Also did not care for the Star Princess design where you look over lower deck cabin balconies rather than straight down onto the sea For the extra you pay for a balcony cabin it certainly seems worth it
Port and Shore Excursions
If excursions are looked for then Punte del Este is recommended
Although there is a dock the Star Princess to big a ship to berth so a short tender ride is needed.
Puerto Montt is not too attractive but the surrounding area is. There are taxi's available in the harbour area which can be cheaper than an excursion, especially if you are 4 in your party. We did this and went to Lago Llanquihue (largest lake in Chile). Stopped at Puerto Varas (strong German feel to it)and went on to Lago Ensenada. On the way we stopped at the Saltos (Falls) del Rio Petrohue. Very attractive small waterfalls through volcanic rock - however watch out for the midges so take insect repellent!
The town of Frutillar (also on Lago Llanquihue) is meant to be the most German in architecture, etc
There are tours to see battlegrounds (1982 conflict)and wildlife. However most of these by Land Rover or other 4x4's with limited space as there are few roads outside Stanley. There Excursions sold of the ship get booked up quickly.
Many nice English style pubs in Stanley with English beer! The museum is excellent - about 2 miles from tender landing point and there is a free shuttle to and from the museum. Take a taxi to Gypsy Cove ($20 per person) to see the Penguins. Stanley Golf Club is "interesting"
The town itself is just about UK but I would recommend an excursion to nearby lakes, etc. Scenery outside the town just great and there are other attraction such as narrow gauge railway, golf course etc. We went to Bahia Ensenada and saw the end of the Pan American Highway : Alaska 17,848 kilometres away!
If you take an excursion say in the morning you can explore some parts of the own in the afternoon on foot or taxi. The ship berths here so no tenders needed.