The cruise from Rio to Santiago began with a sour note as HAL arranged the overnight accommodation in Rio, at a grossly inflated price and in a tired hotel. The airport to hotel transfer was good. The hotel to ship transfer was chaos - all buses arrived at same time and we were standing in a hot marquee for an hour to embark. There was no attempt to relieve the frustrations.
The only greeting was for the Safety Drill, which does not meet any offshore facility I have worked on - so more frustration. One would have thought that the recent events on cruise liners would have sharpened their efforts to calm people and do a thorough drill.
Our cabin was tidy, a bit dusty, but AC was not working. It was hot. After a few complaints we got a fan and then the AC came good for the last half of the cruise. There was no room introduction and info in room was very scant - being a dumb Aussie I rang 911 for information and realised I was on the emergency line! Bar list and prices not there. They have a general help line which was ok if you were prepared to wait a while.
Our shower tap had no temperature control and the plug was easily jammed so we had to keep looking for the cabin boys for the first few days.
The first day at sea was ok but we missed our slot for Buenos Aires so we were several hours late into that port. We had a medical emergency through the night and removed someone as we passed Montevideo, but we were given no detail so the rumour mill started. No information breeds suspicion. After the fiasco at Rio one would think they could learn how to disembark but they tried to stuff 500+ passengers off the ship simultaneously at Buenos Aires. We had to miss that half day in BA. Every port was almost the same, even the last day there was confusion as to who should get off when and go to what bus. Passengers quickly came to the conclusion the HAL were slow learners.
The internet was very slow and at 75c/min, damn expensive. Just to clear and compose a few emails cost over $10! My agent had tried to arrange through HAL a refund (several hundred $'s) to me for an overcharge before our sailing but I could not confirm it. I asked the front desk to confirm and it took me several attempts and some acrimonious words to use their email facilities to confirm. Very distasteful!
Food was pretty good but service was slow in dining room. It was hard to accept that we were in the cheapest wine producing areas in the world and still had to pay ridiculous prices. They had wine packages but even these were overpriced. In the buffet, the fast brekkie section was hopelessly slow and after waiting 5+ mins for 2 eggs, you could only compliment that with cold bacon/ham, beans and toast. It was a joke to watch 4 supervisors watching this performance and then doing nothing about the problems. Not once did we see a supervisor chat to customers about the quality and temperature of the food. Quality ok, temperature very cold.
The pool area was excellent and has a cover, so can be enjoyed even on inclement days. It was nice to be able to take food from the buffet or grill to the poolside, but it was disgusting to have patrons light up cigarettes on the adjacent table. We had to move several times. There were no clear rules with respect to what areas were designated smoking and to add insult to injury we saw people smoking on deck 6 while the ship was refuelling.
We had some rough weather and the captain and crew handled that very professionally, though I think the dining services should have been modified for safety reasons. We hade Force 12 gales and swells and it was by luck more than good management that people were not injures by flying trays etc.
We had spent the bulk of the first half of the journey at sea with no landscape, but the second half was through the Chilean fjords. There was a meagre attempt to clean the windows in one port but the dining room windows were not cleaned for the entire trip so the once-in-a-lifetime-views were very blurred.
The rough seas found every creak in the ship. There appeared to be a false wall between 171/173 and it creaked something awful and this did not help with seasickness panic. In moderate seas the wall would make a knocking sound, exactly like someone trying to enter the room. When we ignored it, it was someone at the door who then barged in. This happened at least 3 times.
Hand sanitisers were plentiful but not really pushed by the attendants, in spite of the sickening cruise director who finished all his messages with a whining 'wash your hands, wash your hands". Obviously some patrons came on board with a flu as nearly half the ship was suffering, me especially, by day 6. No hygiene was emphasised for air borne germs.
As usual, excursions were overpriced and long days. We were looking forward to a coastal cities tour before being dropped at the airport before coming home. The tour was a quick look at Valparaiso, which is pretty ugly, and then Vin del Mar before being taken into the hinterland to a very lame rodeo. This was gross misrepresentation and fraud, but what could we do on the way out?
Not a fan of HAL. Neat ship, but poorly run.