11 Buenos Aires First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

We were quite disappointed with this cruise, as we have cruised Oceania a few times in the past and have always loved our stay on board. We joined the ship in Buenos Aires and sailed to Rio de Janeiro . To be fair, the ship had an ... Read More
We were quite disappointed with this cruise, as we have cruised Oceania a few times in the past and have always loved our stay on board. We joined the ship in Buenos Aires and sailed to Rio de Janeiro . To be fair, the ship had an outbreak of Noro Virus and the crew seemed to spend all their free time cleaning and sanitizing the ship, but unfortunately the virus lasted all cruise. We felt sorry for the crew having all this extra work, as they are all over-worked as it is. Needless to say this led to a very unhappy atmosphere on the ship. We are used to being made welcome with a smiling and friendly staff, but we felt unwelcome and just a nuisance. The front desk staff were the least friendly of any cruise we have been on, and when we had a query they made no attempt to get back to us and let us know the status of the issue. I requested a refund for the internet because we had been overcharged, and I showed them all the details, but they just ignored it. Fortunately there was not much money involved but it was just the principle of the thing. Food was excellent, as always, but the entertainment left a lot to be desired. We had the same two entertainers three times in the 12 days we were on board. They were good, but we all needed some variety. Two of the other entertainers were brought back twice! The singers and dancers for the other nights were delightful and a nice breath of fresh air. Some of the ports left a lot to be desired, but others, like Buzios in Brazil were a joy to visit. I do not like writing a negative review, and have never done so before, after 45 cruises, but I just do not feel Oceania is now up to the stand we had been used to. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Taking a look at the reviews online before the cruise, I had somewhat low expectations for the Norwegian Sun. Some folks like to complain, some like to be demanding. I was pleasantly surprised overall with my vacation! That includes on ... Read More
Taking a look at the reviews online before the cruise, I had somewhat low expectations for the Norwegian Sun. Some folks like to complain, some like to be demanding. I was pleasantly surprised overall with my vacation! That includes on board the ship, ship excursions, food and drinks, entertainment options and customer service. This is a "get what you pay for" trip - remember if you want the best of the best and the finest of the finest, then perhaps this cruise line or this ship is not for you! We were pleased with the spaciousness of our room. Cleaning was adequate by our steward, who we rarely saw as we spent little time in our rooms. Food was fine - I am not a fan of buffets and when you have droves of people (including inconsiderate ones cutting in line or ones that do not realize that tongs are there for a reason!) it makes it worse - even if there are dishes you would love to try. On excursion days, we had to use the buffet for breakfast due to time constraints - otherwise I recommend you take the time to go to any of the sit-down dining options! Decent if not delicious food options and good service. We had the drink package and a specialty dinner package, and used most of the specialty dinners at Moderno. Great salad bar and great meat/chicken/lamb/shrimp offered. We were glad we had the drink package, otherwise we would not have taken advantage of the variety of drinks offered at the different bars on the ship - it would have simply been too expensive. Excursions and tendering - like a well oiled machine the ship personnel gets folks off and on like no other. They are organized! Some of our excursions were great, some were okay - a couple ports we did our own private tour (Montevideo and also in Puerto Montt) and it worked out wonderfully. Something to be said for staying off a big bus, stopping when you want and where you want, and not being held back by slow moving people. However, I speak Spanish so that also helped. We also had the luxury of FANTASTIC weather on our side for the entire trip, with the exception of the sea day through the Chilean Fjords. Oh - and yes! The informative talks with Peter are a do not miss while on this cruise! He has an abundance of information and powerpoint presentations that we enjoyed. He makes himself available for Q&As as well. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Never thought a cruise will be such as awfull as this. 80% Seniors and zero organization: - Not enough shadow for 10% of passangers outside while full sun. - No care for making people follow rules and not take all chairs and ... Read More
Never thought a cruise will be such as awfull as this. 80% Seniors and zero organization: - Not enough shadow for 10% of passangers outside while full sun. - No care for making people follow rules and not take all chairs and tables at shadow while they didnt use it, and while old people had nowhere to seat but "deck sun chairs" under full sun. - Lack in response of stealed stuff while they have cammeras everywhere. - Hyper lack on organizing boat tickets to go to the beaches (four or five bridges long lines of people at 7 am), while they sell you prior expensive bad packages to go offboard on first turn. - Too cold conditioned air inside, at any public space. You could difference such as 20ºC form outside and inside. A lot of people got colds or got sick including me. - Food was good at buffet but mostly fat like: cream, butter, and too much oil and flour. Healty food i found was rare withuout mentioning vegies, fruit and cereal... want low cream milk? then you'll have to pay extra for it. Bufet juices are all artificial. - Ship and boats spread black and brown stains at sea, without mentioning whole black smoke by engines. - Crew... always smiling... but if you stared a little just... watching them, you would see they are all the same doing different things at anytime. Several times i asked some of them, do you ever sleep?! Not all of them anwered, but i know some did just for a couple of hours. - Yes, it is slave work but i have nothing better in my country, if you dont like it they fire you. "Ship rules under who knows what wokr and human rights." - Last night i saw the captain eating a piece of pizza at the bufett... Think if i had known all the things i readed after arriving (didnt have internet because it was a joke the price) mabye i wouldnt be here. - Arriving, all things they said they will do to take care of our lougage like data and unique numbers id and coulours for organize and find your stuff, never happened. Lucky you if you could find your stuff in a mess... and I could have taken anyones stuff without any control. Going off the ship and off the port was all a mess too, no matter if you where a baby, and old woman with walking stick or a guy with wheel chair. Sorry my english. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
I choose this cruise primarily for the interesting ports and itinerary. Patagonia, Falkland Islands, The Horn, Straits of Magellan, Chilean Fjords, and more. Embarkation was something. Lots of lines, and checkpoints getting through the ... Read More
I choose this cruise primarily for the interesting ports and itinerary. Patagonia, Falkland Islands, The Horn, Straits of Magellan, Chilean Fjords, and more. Embarkation was something. Lots of lines, and checkpoints getting through the port terminal. Once on the ship, and completing one last check-in, I was able to go right to my cabin. My luggage was present along with the first daily schedule. Lots of events throughout the afternoon and evening. I made a list and jumped right into it. Let me mention that the cabin was great, Mid-ship Ocean View, class OF. I describe it in more detail under the cabin review section. I really enjoyed the dining choices. The two main dining rooms always a large number of selections. I ate all dinner meals in one of the main dining rooms. One evening we went to the Brazilian Steak house (specialty restaurant with an extra charge) It was great. Had my fill of wonderfully grilled meats. I tried everything. Found some cuts better than others, like the tenderloin, which I had several more rounds of. They also had a shrimp dish that was excellent. Also don't forget the grilled pineapple, out of this world. For breakfast I would eat either the buffet/cafeteria areas on excursion days. Though these were fairly hectic. After a few days I discovered the continental plus breakfast area. It didn't feel as hurried, and I was able to get eggs fried/scrambled to order, and hot cereal. On sea days I would have a wonderful sit down breakfast in the main dining room with friends. Many, many choices and always good. There are so many other snack options from the bars to the buffets, to the crepe station at the ice cream bar. I enjoyed it all. The entertainment was good. I went to most shows. Some were better than others, but all were fun. Lots of planned/scheduled events and activities. Really something for everyone. In fact I wasn't able to do everything I wanted, because there were just so many choices. The service was great. Everyone from the dinning area, to cabin stewards, to senior staff were always helpful and accommodating. Of course my experiences may not match what others have experienced. I didn't interact with all the staff, and may have been lucky with those I did. Also my travel friends also commented on the fact that a lot of it has to do with the individual person themselves. We witnessed people just griping and complaining about things out of the cruise line's control, like weather which delayed tendering. Some where outright screaming at employees about how inept NCL was handling things. I understood the delay and didn't worry about it. Hey, we're on vacation, relax and chill out. Everything isn't going to go perfectly, but how you handle it will make a big difference in your total experience. Finally the excursions. I went with NCL's excursions on this cruise. Partially because I had booked fairly close to the sailing date and didn't have time to do much on my own. I was very pleased with my choices. I wanted to see lots of penguins, and I did. I wanted to hike in the forests of Tierra Del Fuego, and of the Chilean Fjord region. I wanted to visit a volcano at Puerto Montt. I got to do all of this and it was great. I enjoyed this itinerary, and ship so much that I plan to do this cruise again sometime in the future. Those of you reading this because you are taking this cruise, are in for a real treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Being excited about my first cruise, I don't know if the embarkment process was short/average/long. Didn't seem long to me. I was one of those people who thought 'I can't be cooped up with that many people', ... Read More
Being excited about my first cruise, I don't know if the embarkment process was short/average/long. Didn't seem long to me. I was one of those people who thought 'I can't be cooped up with that many people', especially for 14 days. But I never fell cramped, crowded or overwhelmed....a little sea sick once though. Our room was snug for 3 people, but we spent so little time there it was okay. The price and location was just to tempting not go! Very few children, I saw about six. Our little tug boats did an amazing job of getting us out of port around those huge cargo ships and off we went! The welcome board poolside barbeque with music was fun, with plenty of seating inside and out. The excitement was contagious. First stop was Montevideo, Uruguay: take the Leather Company free ride to the center plaza. After browsing/buying at the store, the plaza outside has many sightseeing areas -monuments,only piece of the old city wall, classic hotels and opera house. Make sure you stop buy the street craft fair, many items are affordable, esp. the jewelry, pottery and chocolates. It was a short time, but plenty to do. The next day at sea, we started the South American lecture series (that prepared us for further ports), joined Trivia, origami, Spanish Class with Hector and Dance classes. We collected initials on a game card and at the end of the cruise, NCL gifts were handed out. (I got a nice NCLcoffee mug) The nightly entertainment shows were very good. We saw magicians, flutist, singers, dancers, musical shows, something for everyone. Argentine tango group Pampas Diablos were intense and "I want to dance like that!!" I have to mention singers Elvy Rose, Amber Strings and Aaron Shaw because they were very good, too. We ate at the buffets, Seven Seas and Four Seasons, all complimentary. The amount and variety of food was overwhelming and totally delicious! It included prime rib the first night , then turkeys, hams, pork, fish, chocolate night, Lobster specials, Norwegian night, stir frys, Indian....and the desserts! But there were also sandwiches, salads and burgers and really good breakfasts. The Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery was amazing with these little penguins waddling next to, in front of or feeding their young so close to us. The coastline and hills were full. We also saw the rabbit-like mara, rhea and guanaco. Beautiful area that tourists need to respect. Day 6 brought in a storm, so we could not tender to Stanley, Falkland Islands. But this did give us more time cruising the Cape Horn area. The mountains are fabulous down here. The winds were whipping and we bundled up to go outside for photos...many photos! The sea was fairly calm for that area and sunny. We went from east to west and west to east, our captain did a great job of manuvering the ship so all could enjoy no matter where you were on the ship. Hot chocolate stations were waiting when you can back inside. Ushuaia - Prison train and Tierra del Fuego was day 8. I was surprised how many people live down there.Plenty to do and see in town. Great chocolate and Beagle beer shop in the middle of town. The Prison train was interesting and informative as we passed the tree cemetary and mountans.A short ride by bus brought us to the Beagle Channel. I just had to put my hand in those icey waters! There was a certain kind of excitement standing there, at the end of the world. Punta Arenas we met up with friends and spent the whole day at their cattle ranch. This was very special for us and won't be forgotten. The Straits of Magellan and Chilean fjords were breathhtaking. Find a good seat, have a drink - have plenty of battery time and space on your camera cards! Puerto Chacabuco, Day 12 - Best of Nature, Flavors & Traditions. We walked through a pristine Patagonian rainforest, seeing unusual plants (some as big as me), continual birds singing, came upon a huge waterfall and saw 2 large ringed kingfishers. Then a short hike up a hill to the most delicious fire-roasted lamb meal. While we werre eating there were traditiional danciing, music, wines and the wonderful pisco sours! The next day was the Best of Puerto Montt. Our excusion brought us through the countryside to a German style city and craft market. Nice, quality items there. This is where you can see one of the volcanos across the lake. On to Criadero Los Alerces Ranch with side-ways running champion horses. We were welcomed by the owner and his family, horse trainers and breeder, and Chile's junior champion tradition dancers with live music. There was a rodeo showing their horses and then a wonderful beef steak meal with local wines. Another excellent excursion. And down near the port there are rows of craft market booths. Some gimmicky stuff, but others very nice handmade local items. Take the time to look around. Our last day at sea was filled with activites. There was a special Sun Crew Talent Show that surprised the audience. Many of these young people have hidden talents: singing, music instruments, traditional dancing and then the Entertainment Crew "fountains" skit.....hysterical, loved it!! Hectar is a ham...good job! That night, I watched from the above deck seating as the kitchen staff starting to build a huge gingerbread house/ship/playground scene on a long table. The next morning, at disembarkment, we were routed by this display. Made you smile and not so sad to be getting off the ship. My first cruise. From 80+ degree days to 30 degree snow showers. Cities, penguins, mountains, ranches, rainforest. Music, games, shows,and I can't forget the adorable towel animals Yasmin made for us! What a wonderful adventure! Well worth the money,thank you. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We and many others on the March 3 2013 Buenos Aires to Valpariso cruise were disappointed. I notice the price has gone up substantially for 2014. The good: great weather and smooth sailing (not always the case), good attendants for ... Read More
We and many others on the March 3 2013 Buenos Aires to Valpariso cruise were disappointed. I notice the price has gone up substantially for 2014. The good: great weather and smooth sailing (not always the case), good attendants for cleaning the room, ports unique, scenery unique. The bad: Difficulty coordinating with airfare-cost 8 wasted hours each way due to incorrect Celebrity publication about not taking Valpariso city tour requirement about outbound flight must leave after 9:00 pm on day of departure. This forced us into connecting flights both ways. Fact: Tour arrived at airport at 4:00 pm, could not begin to check bags until 6:00 pm, could easily have taken direct flight leaving between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Neither Celebrity nor Choice Air was of any assistance on this. Choice Air suggested we book a hotel and go the next day-totally useless help. Portions small/frequently service hard to find /drinks out at various stations often at their buffet restaurant. Entertainment-very disappointing-we usually left very quickly. Entertainment around the ship was fairly good-but got old after a few days, much less 14 days. One of the game show employees really liked to hear himself talk-almost made us miss Cape Horn-we just had to leave game show so we didn't miss it. Got our bags around 5:00 pm after being on the ship for several hours. Missed our first afternoon excursion due to delays getting from airport with Celebrity. Were not properly informed about "reciprocity fee" that had to be paid to Argentina. To supposedly be a highly rated cruise line, we were greatly disappointed. We could not recommend this cruise on this ship to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We reserved this cruise about a year and half before departure, and paid full price for it. Yet we were assigned a noisy room that I'm sure they are aware should only be used for storage! While at cruising speed there is a constant ... Read More
We reserved this cruise about a year and half before departure, and paid full price for it. Yet we were assigned a noisy room that I'm sure they are aware should only be used for storage! While at cruising speed there is a constant on and off sound that prevents one from getting a good nights sleep or even being able to retreat to the room during the day. We had to live with this for 14 days! The noise (buzz, or distance horn like sound) varied in length but is generally about 10-12 second on and maybe 5 second off. Several crew members came and heard the sound but did not identify its source and could not reduce it. I suspect it is related to the ship's stabilization system; and as I told the crew members it is loudest at the head of the bed which is against the outside wall - I noticed nearby staterooms were arranged with the head of the bed against the side wall . . By the way I'm very hard of hearing, wear two hearing aids when with other people, yet this noise kept me awake at night! We heard from other passengers - Captains's club members - who were upgraded from inside cabin to Verandas . . . while we paid for an upgraded outside view cabin that was nearly uninhabitable. Shame on Celebrity for treating first time cruisers to such bad conditions. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We recently lost our cruising virginity on a 14 day cruise from Buenos Aries around Cape Horn to Valparaiso. Quite frankly, I am glad we saved ourselves for Celebrity. My wife and I like active cycling and/or hiking vacations and we ... Read More
We recently lost our cruising virginity on a 14 day cruise from Buenos Aries around Cape Horn to Valparaiso. Quite frankly, I am glad we saved ourselves for Celebrity. My wife and I like active cycling and/or hiking vacations and we didn't know if we would like being"captive"in a ship. We need not of worried. From the moment we left port, we felt pampered by the staff and wondered at the wealth of quality activities available throughout the ship. This feeling was echoed by the four other couples we were travelling with. The food in the Trellis Dining room and service provided was in a word-superb! The myriad of on-board physical fitness activities more than kept our interest and helped a little to work off all those extra calories we took in. The entertainment was a huge surprise. We were really impressed by the high calibre of the Shows and Beyond the Podium speakers in the Celebrity Theatre. As a suggestion, we would like to some adventuresome/physically challenging shore excursions on offer for future cruises. There were a few minor glitches with embarkation at Montevideo and Punta Del Este but these were beyond Celebrity's control. Overall, because we were treated so royally by the staff, and because of the quality of activities and entertainment as well as the spectacular scenery, we were more than happy with our first cruising experience. To be continued... Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Having recovered from the initial shock of the hoards of young folks waiting in the terminal in Buenos and the pleasure of the young lady who greeted me asking " Holland America,Sir", I didn't have any luggage tags in view, ... Read More
Having recovered from the initial shock of the hoards of young folks waiting in the terminal in Buenos and the pleasure of the young lady who greeted me asking " Holland America,Sir", I didn't have any luggage tags in view, I would say there was nothing wrong with this cruise. Always remember that the staff are there to solve your difficulties, not increase them. I had a couple of annoying events, but they were solved to my satisfaction, complete with bottle of wine. A few things would need attention, if they are fixable. Internet took forever,the sign said "on board internet is significantly slower than on land. Something of an understatement. The IT manager seemed to be doing nothing other than fielding complaints. My advice is not to use it unless you are incapable of existing without it. Silly little things like salad plates being warm, if not hot even, don't bother the bus boys. They are doing as they are told, 3 of the 4 forward elevators sitting on the same floor, never a special in Canaletto. I do not go to an Italian restaurant for Spaghetti and Meatballs. Passengers were encouraged to dine in the Pinnacle, when I tried for a reservation on the second night I was advised that it was sold out for the reset of the cruise, or at least only a very early res, or a very late one. I was very surprised that officers ate in the passenger's dining room. At least 2 of them were at the table next to me in Canaletto. If the captain wants his officers to check out the service and cuisine have them out of uniform. Canaletto was frequently full at peak time( I dined there about 5 or 6 times) and it must have been an irritant for walk-ins. The captain kept us informed on a regular basis. We were lucky on this one. 2 mildly choppy days, but not going around the Horn. Very well heeled passengers with a lot of British and South Americans, and not many children You would have to be very difficult to find fault with this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We are first time cruisers and did not know what to expect on a cruise of this type, expecially considering the probable changes in weather which would require packing a varitey of clothing. The embarkation process in Buenos Aires went ... Read More
We are first time cruisers and did not know what to expect on a cruise of this type, expecially considering the probable changes in weather which would require packing a varitey of clothing. The embarkation process in Buenos Aires went very smoothly and we were at sea on schedule. Throughout the cruise we were impressed by the attentiveness and professionalism of the ship's staff. We had wonderful dinner partners-Kim, Bob, Eileen, and Jim, who made the cruise even more enjoyable. Our first port was Stanley in the Falkland Islands where we went ashore by tender. We took the Patrick Watts tour, which is a 6-7 hour tour mostly by 4-wheel drive vehicles to Volunteer Point, home of magnificent colonies of penguins. Our driver was Sharon, who also is Deputy Editor of the local Penguin News, and she was extremely knowledgeable and pleasant. I rate the Patrick Watts tour as absolutely top notch. During "At Sea" days the ship had scheduled three scientists to give lectures about the geology, geography, history, and birds and animals to be seen. My wife and I attended all of the lectures and found them to be very informative. Our next stop was Elephant Island, off of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the crew of the ill-fated Shackelton ship "Endurance" were marooned for months. As we approached Antarctica the weather turned very cold, and on arrival in the vicinity of Elephant Island fog blanketed the sea. Luckily the fog lifted and for several hours we had beautiful views of Elephant Island. However, a series of very severe storms were approaching Antarctica and when we were about 50 nautical miles south of Elephant Island (near Gibbs Island), we were informed the captain was turning the ship around in order to escape the storms. We were, of course, disappointed to not see Paradise Bay, but understood the requirement for the safety of the ship and passengers. Since we had gained an extra day by missing Paradise Bay, the ship scheduled two days at the port of Ushuaia on the tip of South America. This time was well spent as Ushuaia is a beautiful area and our weather was very nice, as we were informed by the locals that the weather is usually windy and rainy. Following Ushuaia we cruised to Cape Horn and again we had good weather in what are frequently some of the roughest seas in the world. The ship cruised around the craggy rocks of Cape Horn for several hours allowing some great opportunities for photography. From Cape Horn, our next port was Puerto Madryn, part way north on the coast of Patagonia. Here we took a tour scheduled by the ship to a Penguin colony of up to two million Magellan penguins. The tour requires about 3 hours each way on the bus, but we had an interesting tour guide and the penguin colony is wonderful to see. Our last port before returning to Buenos Aires was Montevideo, Uruguay. Here we took a private tour (thanks again to Kim's efforts), done by Liz at "Real English Tours". Liz is a transplant from the UK, and she gives an outstanding tour, capped off by a tour of a local vineyard and tasting of some excellent wines. I highly recommend this tour, www.realenglishtours.com, if you are in Montevideo. As first time cruisers we did not know what to expect, but were very pleased by the ship, its crew, the ports and the tours, and the overall experience. Scott (Brewmeister10) and Alene Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Cruise Review - Veendam Feb. 11 sailing from Buenos Aires around Cape Horn to Valparaiso Background: This was my first ocean cruise although I am an experienced river cruiser. I chose it for the natural beauty, esoteric scenery, and ... Read More
Cruise Review - Veendam Feb. 11 sailing from Buenos Aires around Cape Horn to Valparaiso Background: This was my first ocean cruise although I am an experienced river cruiser. I chose it for the natural beauty, esoteric scenery, and general off-the-beaten-path adventure itinerary. For a non-Spanish speaker not primarily interested in the local culture, it seemed like a relatively safe as well as luxurious way to go. (On these bases, it didn't disappoint). If you want to visit Patagonia with less weather risk, speak Spanish, and don't need luxury, you should consider land-based alternatives and stay longer, but I didn't seriously consider that option; I wanted to try ocean cruising. I wasn't into this trip for the social life (you should take your own companions) or the kick-back vacation aspects (you could find more relaxing venues with more sun). Cruisecritic.com helped me a lot in knowing what to expect, so I'm writing to "give back" and to cover some details I'd like to have known about. Pre-cruise Travel: I arrived in Buenos Aires two nights early, in hopes that my luggage and I would both arrive by embarkation day. That strategy worked. Some passengers leaving the northeast in the midst of a snowstorm wished they had done the same. I stayed at the Dazzler Liberdad hotel; it was excellent and well located with extraordinarily helpful English-speaking staff and free internet access which I used to confirm arrival to those at home. On the pre-cruise day I flew to Iguazu Falls and back -- spectacular! The highlight of the trip, it turns out. I stayed on the Argentine side; it will cost you a Brazil visa to go to the Brazil side and shots to stay overnight. I'm told the mosquitoes that carry yellow fever and malaria come out at night. Arrangements in Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls, including a great "dinner theatre" tango show at Tango Porteno, were made through Analia at Eureka Travel: http://eurekatravel.net/travel_info.htm. I highly recommend her services. Embarkation: What I wish I had known was that there were luggage carts just inside the terminal, as the airline (Thanks, American Airlines!) had broken the pull handle on my heavy suitcase and I could barely lift it. I was dropped off in the street outside the terminal; the entry drive, although backed up, would have been preferable. Once I got to them, HAL employees were efficient and professional. Tips were encouraged to be put into a box at luggage dropoff; I was surprised when a tip was also expected when luggage was delivered onboard. Stateroom: Great room, "F", with window, on lowest level (4 of 13 decks). Great storage, comfortable beds, foam pillows (oh, well!). Nice tub with shower, No ventilation of the bath was evident. Air conditioning in our part of the ship didn't function, although service people showed up to try to fix it. Fortunately it was needed only for the first three days. Room lighting ceased to function at one point too, but they fixed that. Service was unobtrusive and the cabin was cleaned up every time it was left, it seemed. The bathroom was kept very clean. For some reason - I suspect the vacuum cleaner was near its end of life - the nooks and crannies of the cabin never got thoroughly cleaned -- I kept my eye on a piece of (not my) dental floss near the doorstop, which was still there when I left, even though I reported it on the mid-cruise "how can we improve your experience" questionnaire. Ship: A-rating. Wonderful ship, overall. Clean, generally well maintained, good facilities, pleasant staff. Food & dining: A++! Terrific dining room with unbelievably good dinners in sensible portions and outstanding staff. The casual Lido was fine for breakfasts and lunches. Theatre: A-rated. Excellent performers, generally "Las Vegas" style (which isn't my preference, but they did what they do, well). Outstanding vocalists, decent (aye, and dressed) dancers, good band, mediocre comedian. Seating wasn't all comfortable, and upstairs had to look through (clean) transparent barriers, but I didn't have trouble finding seats downstairs that were comfortable. This may have been because I had chosen the slightly less popular early (5:45pm) seating for dinner which allowed going to the 8pm show instead of the 10 pm show. The theatre seats half the passengers at a time. Special programs: There was a series of art lectures that any university would be proud of; I credit it with my first understanding of why people like Warhol. Presented by a very articulate and perceptive young lady, the series rates an A++. Not so the ports of call lectures, which didn't say anything I hadn't already read and heavily promoted signing up for excursions. HAL, you could do better: I'd really have liked professional quality history and culture orientations of a quality consistent with the art lectures. On that theme: readers, if you cruise this itinerary, before you go, if you read only one book, choose "Rounding the Horn" by Dallas Murphy. Bars: B. Several, all competent, good variety, two having dance floors, another a piano, one table games. Decent service, no pressure but not quick. Typical drink with tip automatically added: $8USD. The Crow's nest had the best views while you relaxed. The loud band in one bar seemed to play Mac the Knife every ten minutes. The guy at the piano bar had a terrific repertoire, although not perfect pitch. There was also a non-bar lounge with a really nice string quartet. And a coffee bar with the only decent coffee on the ship: hint to HAL: you're based in Seattle -- made a deal with Seattle's Best and serve it in your dining room! Internet cafe: I didn't use it because the cost seemed exorbitant. Nice location for reading. Good lending library. Casino: Such things turn me off, and it smelled like cigarettes, so I avoided it. For those who do need casinos, note: it didn't operate in Chilean waters. Spa: Rated only a C. Half of the treadmills were broken or had broken features or TVs. A variety of machines, but none for abs -that was left to free weights, which are more dangerous. Staff - pleasant and good-looking if impersonal fitness freaks - were pushing their treatments. As an experiment I signed up for an algae - abs treatment that would "take inches off the potbelly in one session". It was misrepresented: what they did was measure 4 different places before and after: each before measurement was x.5 inches and after was x. The four were added together and they announced 2 inches had been taken off! But my belt still buckled in the same hole. The treatment did include an electrostimulation session for the abs; that was interesting and I believe did contribute to strengthening the abs muscles and better posture, with a lot less agony than doing crunches, so I'm looking into getting my own device now. Swimming pool: Only was accessible for two days of the trip, due at least partly to weather (see below). I didn't use it or the hot tubs, as I have an undoubtedly more sanitary hot tub at home. The ones on the rear deck were never in operation. The central pool area had a roof that could be opened or closed; this made it a relatively pleasant place to be even in the colder parts of the voyage, provided you didn't mind the odor of chlorine. Outdoor decks: Deck 6 had a circumferential walking route that was popular - no jogging allowed. Windy and cold on this voyage. I'm glad I didn't have a cabin on deck 6 because of reduced privacy, despite mirrored doors, and noise. I wonder if there was noise in outboard cabins on deck 5; that's probably why jogging was discouraged. On this itinerary, outdoor decks were all windy and cold except for, weather permitting, the first day or two after Buenos Aires and before Valparaiso. The rear deck was pretty pleasant the last day, as we had a "following wind". Sanitation: Special mention must be made because HAL was concerned about intestinal flu which had apparently been a problem on an earlier sailing. The awareness campaign was prominent and effective. There were hand sanitizer dispensers (just stick you hand under and without touching anything, a glob of goop is put on your hand) at the entrance to every restaurant and public place. Staff were busy all day wiping down handrails. I used the sanitizer and didn't get sick, and I think the same was true of most guests. I appreciated HAL's attention to this. A+! Weather: On the run from Montevideo to the Falklands, we encountered "12 meter swells and 75 knot headwinds" which made us late and prevented landing at the Falklands. I wasn't too upset because I had read on Cruisecritic.com that this voyage often had weather problems and consequently inaccessible ports. The experience was interesting, however. The ship pitched maybe ten degrees every 10 seconds. Wave crests were visible directly out the cabin window even though it was nominally 20 feet above the water line. The horizontal stabilizers worked; the pitching was fore and aft, which made it easier to keep our footing. However, once in a while one end of the ship would fall into a "hole" in the water or a big wave would slap the ship sideways, and everybody on the dance floor would fall down. Unfortunately one passenger broke a hip in such a fall (and was taken by tender to the hospital in Port Stanley). Although the ship creaked audibly through the pounding, to the point I used earplugs to sleep, I wasn't seasick and was never frightened. This wasn't true of everyone, however. I need to add that when we got to Cape Horn, we had calm seas and fair skies - the best weather the captain said he'd encountered there in two years - and it held through Ushuaia, so I got photos of the Cape and of Tierra del Fuego that are outstanding. I would advise persons considering this cruise that it's more an adventure than a vacation! Meeting people: It was a pretty old crowd on this ship, median age in 70s, with a lot more obesity and frailty than I would have expected on an "adventure" cruise. Spry, in my 60's, and traveling solo, I didn't find my peer group here. Almost everyone was "coupled up" and many were in multiple-couple groups. There was an afterthought (didn't start for 3 days) "singles & solos" series of meetings in a bar, but fewer than half a dozen attended. There was a GLBT series of meetings announced too, but I can't speak to whether it was attended by many. The moral is: take your own company. Tipping: Holland America deducted $11/passenger/day, plus 15% for bar service on bar orders, and then didn't beg or push for additional tips. This may well make their staff better paid than their counterparts on other lines that let tipping be wholly voluntary; in any case, judging by the quality of service, it was a good incentive. I did tip cabin stewards and waiters extra because they really earned it. Excursions: I must point out that this trip provides some great views without leaving the ship, weather permitting: Cape Horn, the Beagle channel with its glaciers, the strait of Magellan with its Amalia glacier, and somewhat more distant views of the Chilean islands and fjords. Several of the days listed as "at sea" can be pleasantly spent in the Crow's Nest watching all this go by, or bundled up on the rear deck or promenade. Montevideo: I just walked the tourist route to the center of town, soaking up the local culture, such as it was (almost medieval), and returned via the free shuttle from one of the leather shops. Three different types of police were evident to protect tourists, and it was offputting enough that I chose to forgo walking the promenade, which wasn't on the tourist route. Had I been in a group I would have gone. Ushuaia: I took the HAL tour to Tierra del Fuego park and then Catamaran ride to islands in the Beagle channel. Due to the great weather the photography was superb -- TDF park is beautiful. A trip highlight. If you don't take a tour, take a taxi, but see it, if the weather is clear. Punta Arenas: My choice was a very expensive HAL $999 all-day flight and bus tour to Torres del Paine national park, spectacular in the pictures and videos I found online. I didn't find any non-HAL alternatives to visit it from this port of call. The weather made this a poor choice to have made; fog and clouds only began to clear as we left the park, so: no good photos, although we got enough glimpses to grasp the enormity of the scene, and we saw foxes, rheas, flamingos, guanacos, and a variety of birds. The alternative would have been to go see penguins, but I had thought I'd be able to do that in the Falklands. Oh, well. Puerto Montt: I signed up for a GV tours van that visited Petrohue falls and Puerto Varas. GV tours had been highly rated by other on Cruisecritic.com and I was looking forward to it, along with dozens of others who made the same choice. Unfortunately weather and luck of the draw did not cooperate; the mountains were socked in all day, though visible above the clouds as the cruise ship left port, and I ended up in a van with a student guide with a poor English vocabulary and no sense of what interested us, so it was mostly painful Q&A, aided by a passenger who knew some Spanish. If you use GV tours, ask for Gail or Veronica or their daughter as a guide (although that may mean you're on a bus, not a van). Petrohue falls is a nice cascade; I love such places; but unless you have panoramic or video capabilities, photography without the Osorno volcano in the background won't impress your friends. Valparaiso: I ordered a van for $114 for the day from HectorTours; another student as guide, but this young man was articulate in English and interesting to talk to. The driver was competent and the car clean. I was pleased with the itinerary I had chosen: Valparaiso viewpoints and funicular, Vina del Mar beaches, the statue from Easter Island, and Casablanca valley wineries. I'd have liked to share the van to bring down the cost, but there was no bulletin board or other way on board to find those who might want to. I should have tried harder on Cruisecritic.com ahead of time. My only complaint was my own failing: at the restaurant selected for lunch, I was told that if I wanted the company of my driver and guide at the table, I'd have to pay for their lunches (otherwise they had a "special menu" for them). I said yes, but the bill for all three came to about $107 - due to extras, twice what I expected. So now I know, and so do you. Anyway it was a good meal, and when it came time to tip, I said, with a smile, "I hope you enjoyed having lunch with me as much as I enjoyed having it with you!". Antarctica (not a port of call, but you should know): This cruise offered only an overflight, and it was canceled for lack of participants. If you really want to see Antarctica, this isn't the cruise to take. Security and behavior ashore: I didn't have a problem on this trip, but a friend on this cruise was pickpocketed twice in Valparaiso when alone and another had her camera stolen in Puerto Montt. Be aware: they're there, where there are crowds and lots of tourists. Keep your passport and credit cards under your clothes when ashore. On the other hand, once you've developed your security routine, relax, smile, and be friendly. We Americans are paranoid compared to everyone else in the world and while we're richer that that does make us targets, as tourists we are ambassadors and we should care more than we do, what impression we leave our hosts with. Be appreciative of their culture and art and civic pride. Tip generously to anyone who tries to please. They need it more than you do -- endeavor to deserve what you have! Summary: This is a weather-dependent, adventure itinerary in a vast, empty, remote, pristine wilderness part of the world. A cruise is a great way to see it, without major language difficulties and with serious luxury built in. Holland America did a great job on everything that mattered: clean, professionally managed ship, superb chef and food and servers, good cabins with excellent service, and better entertainment than expected. I was impressed and it added considerably to my confidence and enjoyment that the staff was so professional at virtually everything, including the extraordinary sanitation measures. Was everything perfect? No, and my nits are embedded in the discussion above, but I'm not one of those (you know who you are) who lets minor things ruin their day. I felt this trip was great value for the money. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010

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