The scenery and adventure of being in this part of the world are unparalleled. Good destinations, although you'll want to go far inland from Puerto Montt to see the gorgeous lake district of Chile. We did not use any HAL excursions, instead booked through South Excursions in all areas but Brazil. Virtually the same excursions for a lot less money.
Ship sails leisurely thru fjords and "glacier alley", a welcome respite from the rough ocean waters. We spent hours on our deck, taking it all in. Our group loved Ushuaia and nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park. Punta Arenas has its charms but you'll have to look very carefully to see a fantastic exhibit: a replica of Magellan's ship. It's near the ship docks, but has poor signage; even our cab driver didn't know where it was until we showed him on a map.
All the cruise is weather-dependent, so don't be sure you'll be able to stop at the Southernmost ports or be able to cruise past Cape Horn. We did see the Cape on an unusually clear and peaceful day, but the weather is tricky even in summer. Bad weather in the Falklands meant 4 straight sea days and everyone was getting pretty restless by the time we reached Buenos Aires. We had some very rough seas to deal with. Not counting the unscheduled sea day, we thought there was a good combination of lazy days and port days.
This was our second cruise on the Veendam and it's looking pretty worn: carpeting,furniture,window frames. I saw lots of dust on light fixtrues in the Rotterdam. Many of us were appalled by the poor food quality in the Lido. I was amused by the old-fashioned menus in the Rotterdam (sort of a throwback to haute cuisine of the 60's-'70's), although the food is good there. HAL's coffee and orange juice are absolutely terrible, as is their reliance solely on iceberg lettuce for salads. No excuse in 2012, especially when sailing in the summertime in SA. Clear to see that the number of stewards in the Lido & Rotterdam have really been cut back; same with the number of room stewards. Service suffered there, but overall staff is still very friendly and helpful, especially to people like me who need a bit of extra assistance.
The Pinnacle Grill has excellent service and a hushed athmosphere - a great escape from the banquet style of the Rotterdam's service. Their food is on a par with the best new restaurants in any big city.
We did not see any shows or use the casino because we just don't like that part of shipboard life. We bought our own Chilean wine on board, a very nice HAL policy. We were impressed with the number of staff safety drills while on board. But overall, HAL needs to overhaul the Veendam or take it out of service.
Our group had all sailed on HAL before and we all agreed about the decline of service and food from our previous experiences.
Yes, embarkation and disembarkation are a hassle, but I think it's got lots more to do with the countries' policies and staffing than anything HAL can control, especially in Rio de Janiero.