We embarked on MS Veendam in Buenos Aires in mid November 2010. The check in was easy and our luggage was forwarded to our stateroom without problems. Although we checked in early our room was ready. Our room steward Tom was pleasant and efficient, he took good care of us throughout the voyage.
We booked a "Spa Suite". At this time we can't remember the price difference but it was wonderful to have the extra space and the balcony. The view was definitely worthwhile though we rarely went out onto the balcony itself because of cold and wind. The other amenities of the Spa suite were of little value. The discounts in the Spa were only for full price services. The gym had yoga mats for use and whoever thought the small fountain in the Spa Suites room was a good idea should be back to basecamp for a while.
At first not having any appreciable heat in our room was not a problem but as we sailed further south toward Cape Horn, it became a problem for my husband, but I was fine. Finally they did send a tech to fix the problem and we then were able to detect a few BTU's.
We chose the "Open Seating" for dinner, which worked out wonderfully. We enjoyed all of our different dinner companions. The food was excellent, good selections of entrees and wine. There are always some types of food that don't come out well in the type of kitchen that serves buffet style of food. At a certain age you really should know what those are and stay away from them. The "Spa" soups were excellent. I hate to say how picky I am but the food really was generally excellent. Choose wisely.
We ate at the Lido restaurant for breakfast, lunch and a couple of dinners. It is a problem without trays but I am sure it does save on wasted food. There were "waiters" about who would help you with your dishes if need be. It was wonderful to eat nice food while the wilds of Chile pass you by. A great experience.
We had coffee and fresh wonderful orange juice brought to the cabin every morning. One morning we had a early outing and breakfast was brought in. It was such a treat. And it worked perfectly every morning. We still are craving that fresh squeezed juice!
I went to the gym every day and thought it was fine. I went to different classes and enjoyed that. I know my way around a gym and it nice. Watching the world go by while you exercise or get on a treadmill is awesome. The cold towels were a perfect touch.
I had my hair done at the Spa twice. A little expensive but she did a great job. And on the last day I took in the Spa special. It was fantastic! Why on earth did I not go earlier? The ship offers different specials every day, they truly are worth it. Now at full price it might be a different story but it was wonderful.
It was enjoyable to sit in the Crows Nest lounge-- snug and warm while watching Cape Horn, the Straits of Magellan, glaciers and fjords go by. It's rough, cold and windy at 56 degrees South. But so romantic to think of the old sailors braving the elements. We loved it!
I twisted my ankle, truly my fault, on the second to the last day of our trip. I was walking on Deck Six, got too close to the stern railing then I stepped into a gutter. I wanted to look over the edge but really didn't slow down much. The doctor and nurse took x rays and superglued my cut chin, provided crutches and ankle brace for my comfort. It was nice as we expected to be charged for these services but never were. I was able to give the crutches back two days later and limped along with just the brace. The "waiters" all helped me in Lido with taking my food to the tables, which was nice.
The debarkation went well in Valparaiso. We used the services from our hotel for our transportation. The option for transfers to Santiago airport should be more clear on the HAL website.
We enjoyed the library. We did use the Internet service, it was expensive so we used it sparingly but it was nice to be connected to home. On the last day they do offer a discount on the Internet services.
The big entertainment was borderline but the other guests seemed to enjoy it. Chris's lectures were particularly interesting. He does know his stuff. The string quartet was excellent. The piano bar had his followers, for some reason unknown to us. We both could have cared less about the casino. There was rarely anyone in it except for one night then there was a huge crowd.
One thing that I thought might have worked better, was to have one of the rooms with access to Deck Six. Those cabins are (I believe) the same size as the SPA cabin but they had a sliding door which opens directly onto the deck. A sliding door is nice since you can open it in the wind. One day Deck Six was closed to walking due to winds, probably because it was so scary to open the heavy doors into the wind. If you had the deck cabin, you still could get out. I doubt if privacy is an issue, I only saw into cabins with their doors open. They have two deckchairs assigned to each cabin. If you like to walk the Promenade Deck, seriously consider it. And walking the Promenade is wonderful, just keep your foot out of the gutter!
We truly enjoyed the ship and ship life. The ship isn't perfect but the size is right, the other guests were so interesting. Maybe all the real old people went to "locked in" dinner times but we enjoyed most everyone. People from all over the world were on board, it was great to broaden our horizons. We didn't feel HAL was out to get us and even more of our money. We were ready to get back on board and go around the Horn again.
Some guests told us they never took the ship shore excursions and did just fine arranging their own trips. And afterwards I can see how, you probably would be fine at least in the stops we took.
Our first stop was to be in Montevideo but that was cancelled due to a fire aboard a fishing boat in the harbor. The harbor was closed so the captain sailed on to the Falklands. our fellow travelers said we probably didn't miss much.
It was exciting that our captain was able to get us to the Falklands. The tenders ran well even in the cold and rainy weather. Many times they are unable to dock in Stanley due to bad weather.
In the Falklands, I went on a Farm Visit and my husband went on the Battlefield Tour. Both of our tours overlapped some. Both of us enjoyed our tours. One thing to remember is they are serving snacks, no protein. Neither of us were all that interested in seeing Penguins. We thought maybe we would see some from the ship or just by accident, but no, so I guess we will have to see the movie.
We went on the 4-wheel drive in Ushuaia Argentina and had a great time. We were fed some excellent stew and wine for lunch in the forest.
In Punta Arenas, Chile we took the Andes Trek. We went up in a ski lift to the top of the mountains where it was snowing! Then walked down the trail to a lodge where we had a hot drink and cake.
We had to cancel our zipline adventure in Puerto Montt due to my ankle but we heard rave reviews from other people who went. A heartbreak that we missed it!
We ended up on a bus tour and went to the cultural center. We didn't take the trek into the woods but stayed on the bus. It was so-so but the other people did seem to like it.
If you even think that you want to go around Cape Horn, you have to take the trip. Going on the MS Veendam was a great way to go. We are sure Senor Magellan would agree.