This is a brief review of this cruise, due to the fact that we kept to the Lido, Library, Gym, stateroom (138 on Verandah Deck), and the outer decks for photography and viewing. We did not attend any entertainment, nor participate in any activities.
Also, keep in mind, that when I go to someone's house, I'm not looking for problems: chipped paint, dust bunnies, smudged glass, etc. I don't do that when cruising either. These are not new ships and I expect there will be wear and tear.
This is our second cruise on the Veendam (AK previously). We like the smaller ships with the Crows Nest separate from the Library. We prefer eating in the Lido to the DR. We do not like the long service times in the DR. The table cloths make the Lido quite nice in the evening. The service there was excellent.
Our cabin (138 on Verandah) was an upsell at the last minute. We had been booked on Main Deck, but decided to take a chance on the higher deck to get a verandah which we are glad we did. The verandah was wonderful on the cold days in Antarctica...we needed to keep running in and out for photos...and to warm up! It was a good place to remain while still being able to look for whales, etc. It was in good condition; outside chairs (not used) were in good shape, the cabin was clean and kept so by a good room steward who always was prompt with our service and very pleasant to deal with. The bed, as usual with HAL, was excellent. The extra blankets (which we needed and used) I noted were worn, but so are my extra blankets at home. Plenty of storage for everything.
The Library and Explorations Cafe was excellent. The Lido had very good food and a nice selection...but, also as usual, the HAL desserts were poor. (That's a good thing.) They now have sticky buns that were wonderful...so the raisin buns at breakfast have moved down a notch on my list.
The gym has old equipment and was often crowded...could use some updating there.
The itinerary was fabulous. We missed Ushuaia (which I had finally learned to spell!) due to an impending storm, so we had an extra day in Antarctica...weren't we pleased! We thought it would all be similar, but it was not, so each day was a new adventure. We brought and did use our long undies, gloves, and hats. I could have used another pair of mittens over my "fingerless" gloves I use when using a camera. It was brutally cold with the wind. The experts on board were knowledgeable, but used old canned talks (I felt), so we were disappointed with them. Their experience goes way back, but so did their information. One in particular was very poorly organized. Benjamin, the HAL Travel Guide was superb. (We lucked into magnificent weather in Antarctica.)
We used all HAL tours. My favorites were the Otway Sound and Penguin Reserve in Punta Arenas (4 hours) which was lovely. Just enough time to see plenty of penguins in a beautiful, wildflower setting by the ocean. The chicks were still in their fuzzy stage. Nice tour.
My second favorite was in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands: "Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery" (3 hours). Lovely quick tour which gives you an hour to view the penguins and have tea (if you like) at the little shop on the seaside. That's all you need. (This place has both the Gentoo and a few King penguins.) The Range Rover part of the trip IS VERY BUMPY for about 15 minutes. By taking the shorter tour you have plenty of time to see the town which is charming. Good gift shops (best we saw) to stock up on gifts.
In Puerto Montt we had poor weather (wish I had put on the rain pants I had brought with me)...it began OK, but rapidly deteriorated as we drove higher into the country. The cascades are lovely, but it was a driving rainstorm by then, so no photos...we were soaked. Puerto Vara, the City of Roses, we also saw was lovely...would have liked more time there. The weather cleared up a bit for that part of the tour.
Puerto Madryn looked like a nice town to just walk around, so I would skip excursions here. We didn't care for ours (the Welsh tea was great as were the chorus, but getting there was boring.)
The front desk was helpful when we needed it and the laundry staff did a great job (we did it "By the Bag-$20...the unlimited for our cruise was $126...we sent out 3 bags stuffed...so $60 vs $126...works for us.)
All in all the trip was everything we had hoped it would be, although we are sorry to have missed Ushuaia which people have said is wonderful. HAL continues to give us good value in our opinion. We will continue to cruise with them.
(Suggestions for this itinerary to pack: rain pants, mittens AND gloves, waterproof hiking shoes, more megabytes than you think you need for your cameras, long underwear, a light sweater for inside the ship at all times, warm PJs (as well as lightweight).
If you want to see the penguins, whales, etc, the tours that do these ports after us are going to be iffy...the penguins will be leaving in only a few weeks. December and January seem to be the best times for the penguin rookeries. The whales are in Puerto Madryn earlier than we were there. The King penguins will still be OK in Port Stanley for another month or so...they were still hiding under the feathers of their parents.
If you go "around the Horn" and don't include Antarctica, you're making a big mistake...it's more than anyone can tell you about.