We took this cruise mainly to see the Chilean fiords and islands, go through the Darwin Channel, Beagle Channel, Straits of Magellan, go around Cape Horn, and visit the Falkland Islands. Note: In 2005 we did a extensive land tour of Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay which included some of the same areas the shore excursions covered so we did not feel the need for extensive shore excursion. Our primary focus was the ships passage through those area that are only accessible by ship.
Often there is a comparison made between a cruise around South America and Alaskan cruises. They are not directly comparable and neither is better than the other in our opinion. What you see on this cruise, is volcanos, islands upon islands of various sizes and shapes, glaciated with smallish shrubs and trees, or sometimes barren, fjords, glaciers. Waterbirds but little/no mammals. It's very desolate with no towns, signs of human habitations, or ship traffic for the most part.
Veendam was the first ship of the season to make the voyage around the Horn. The weather was seasonal and generally in the 50's. The seas were not bad but the wind in some ports made for a good show of seamanship by the Captain.
The passengers were mostly in their 60's and 70's which also fit our age profile.
Embarking and Disembarking
Easy. Valparaiso check in was 1pm to 4:30pm. We arrived at about 3:15pm. No lines. Disembarking was the tours and early flights first followed by everyone else. Our flight was late evening and we were off the ship by about 9:30am and took a cab to a hotel where we had booked a day room. Both terminals use buses to get you from the ship to terminal/terminal to ship. Luggage was waiting and both terminals are a short walk from/to the street for taxis, etc.
We used Christian "The Van Man" to pick us up at Santiago and bring us to our hotel in Valparaiso. Excellent service
Decent size with a large balcony which got very little use due to the weather but the full glass wall and door allowed for great viewing from the room. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom wash basin countertop was a little small. Flat screen TV with a decent channel selection. You can order DVDs from a list for watching on the TV.
Mixed review. Don't generally like the Las Vegas type acts but other shows like the magic show, liars game, and the crew's Filipino cultural show were enjoyable. Others on the cruise seemed to enjoy. The ship's naturalist, Chris Fisher, was excellent with his reviews of the ports we would be visiting and the live commentary/simulcast over the TV system from the Observation lounge.
The main dining room food and service was very good. We had open seating but usually made a reservation about 8pm each night for a table for 2. After a couple of nights, we found a table that suited us and booked it for the rest of the cruise. We originally made reservations for several nights in the Pinnacle Grill but after the first night eating there we cancelled the remaining reservations. Uneven service/food and a little too pretentious. Usually had breakfast in the main dining room but used room service a couple of times and the food arrived warm and at the time we requested. Lunch was a mixed bag of places with room service (great steak sandwich), Terrace Grill on the Lido deck for burgers and tacos, main dining room, and often on the open Lido deck aft of the pool for special theme menus which one day was "German" with roast pork, grilled sausages, sauerkraut, and pretzels which was great. We only ate one meal in the Lido buffet area (breakfast) and it was fine.
3 dress nights on the 12 day cruise. Looked like a sports jacket without a tie was the minimum requirement for men.
Drinks. Drink prices ok in the various lounges. We most enjoyed the Crows Nest (Observation lounge) during the day and the Ocean Bar before dinner. The main dining room wine list was fine with good drinkable wines at fair prices. Also, an upscale wine list was available.
Crows Nest (Observation Lounge) was a nice place to sit and view the scenery but could get very crowded at times when going thru the best scenery.
Standard slow maritime service. $100 for 250 minutes.
Advanced booked with GV Tours in Puerto Montt for their 4 hour lake and country side tour, $95 versus the ship essentially the same tour for about $179, and the GV tour included lunch.
Punta Arenas took a taxi into town and the main square. Many artisan booths set up. Not much to see in town.
Ushuaia. Beagle channel catamaran tour $79 while the same tour from the same place(end of pier) is about $40.
The wife loved the Long Island Sheep Farm tour in the Falkland Island. I took the tender ashore, had a pint in a pub which was quite enjoyable, wandered Stanley a bit and then took the tender back to the ship.
Not much to see in Montevideo. We took a taxi (ripoff $10 into town) at the taxi stand within the port into the old town which was very disappointing. New and undistinguished buildings are eating up the old and there does not seem to be a movement to preserve some of the historic old neighborhoods. Caught a honest taxi back to the port and visited the Mercado del Puerto, which has competing parillas, all of them probably very good. We had a wonderful carnivorous lunch and then walked back to the ship.
Designated Non smoking cabins do not exist on the ship. Was not a problem this cruise but could understand how it could be. All cabins should be non smoking.
Weak coffee even at the coffee bar (explorations cafe).
Tender service was via Veendam's 4 tenders. Tour groups and elite passengers first off which is understandable but it can take about 2 hours to get off the boat if you are in one of the last groups. Generally ok if you are just going to walk around the town but time in some of the ports is quite short before you need to get back on a tender to return to the ship.
Taxis (not part of HAL's control) are ripoffs at most ports. While the prices are not high by US $'s the price gouging is disturbing. These are the taxis that have port permission to ply there trade and are the first ones you see. Outside on the street, the prices are metered and very cheap. Beware as always with taxis and insist on meters and a full understanding of were you are going.
$7per cruise day per room laundry service-no limit. Not available for first 2 days or last 2 days but unlimited.
Relatively small ship that never felt crowded.
Choice of open or set seating.
We thought it was a great cruise and would sail with Holland America again.
We flew into Buenos Aries early to visit Iguazu Falls. We chose an overnight stay at the Sheraton in a top floor falls view room. Cintia at WOWArgentina made our Iguazu Falls tour arrangements which were excellent. An overnight visit allowed plenty of time but the visit could have been made in one day with early flight to Iguazu and late flight back to Buenos Aires. One day trips booked through Holland America cost about twice what a overnight trip cost through Cintia or other reputable travel agents.