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19 Carnival South America Cruise Reviews

The food was terrible. The dining room food was cold, improperly cooked, or simply tasted terrible. I apologized to the people at the table for telling the to try frog legs when they came out in a grease filled dish falling apart with no ... Read More
The food was terrible. The dining room food was cold, improperly cooked, or simply tasted terrible. I apologized to the people at the table for telling the to try frog legs when they came out in a grease filled dish falling apart with no flavor. I told them the chef had no idea what frog legs or did not care. I would have been ashamed to have called that my kitchen. Then there was having to stuff towels in the vents in the room to stop the freezing air from coming in. The rooms were so cold that it was not possible to be in them. The best advise people got was that. Open the door to the balcony to help warm it up. Stay outside, stay in the Casino- be warm. People complained and complained. Get a good laugh when they say, they just finished a huge redo while seeing rusty beams above the movie screen outside. Empty Handwashers- why have things to wash your hands or soap containers without soap in them? How do you wash hands, or clean hands without it? STAFF: WONDERFUL PEOPLE. PIANO GUY at the PIANO BAR- A BLAST SHOWS; FUN BINGO: DONT Waste your money- it is far to expensive. $25 COUPON BOOK: BUY IT; The Freebies are worth it, and there are coupons for other ports to. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Thought to write a review on our second trip on this boat to Vanuatu and Noumea on Jan 30th 2014.This 11 night trip only provided one of the stops we were hoping for out of 5 as there was rough weather off some ports and we were rediverted ... Read More
Thought to write a review on our second trip on this boat to Vanuatu and Noumea on Jan 30th 2014.This 11 night trip only provided one of the stops we were hoping for out of 5 as there was rough weather off some ports and we were rediverted to Fiji and Port Denerau..We missed Vila which we liked and Lifou,and whilst we would not recommend Fiji(suva) it was brilliant to be woken(even at 6.45 am) to the sound of the police marching band parading along the dock to welcome the boat.Prices in this port unbelievably high from clothing to alcohol. Port Denerau is a delight and for an $8 fee you could ride the Bula bus along the coastal area to see the resorts built on the beach.Cruisers are welcome to swim in their pools and we had a nice day there. My favourite Isle of Pines is ALWAYS perfect with powdery sands (not coral where you need reef shoes) CABINS-Comfy,love the affordable extended balcony rooms (one of the few boats that have so many at reasonable fare).If you spend the bit extra we'd highly recommend-great for sunning ,drying clothes etc .For those who want to know -there is no usb in side of the tv and viewing is very limited programming ,not that you come on a cruise for that.Cabin steward Ketut (and others) do a marvellous job,fresh towels ,perfect service always.Bit annoying how robe doors open on the bathroom door but a minor thing.Lots of storage for clothes etc . FOOD- Prefer the dining room for dinner and breakfast to avoid crowds and recommend the Eggs Benedict!This room is quite beautiful and opulent .Our Maitre d Desi is probably the best Iv'e experienced and female .Every night she welcomes you and brings warm fun atmosphere where she encourages staff to perform-sing/dance for our enjoyment.Conga lines,Macarena etc so go for it .Waiters are brilliant and our Thai head waiter Coolman was fantastic. The buffet is fine but I guess not quite the selection of food we have encountered on the Princess Line-but heh ...it's a food fest up there.Drinks are affordable but dearer than on land -cheapest white wine $30 but if unfinished the staff would cork for you and bring it back next night. SHOPPING ON BOARD- same old same old-perfume no cheaper ,lots of cheap watches or Very expensive ones ,hats ,bags etc .Alcohol was very reasonable -Bombay Saphire in a litre bottle was $19-about $60-70 here?Best place for shopping is Vila -cheaper again !Great how you can use the machines to check and print out your expenditures onboard.. GENERAL-Very kid friendly ---bit too much ,saw kids sitting on bar stools at 9pm etc They tend to take over Karaoke rooms and you have to leave the area even quicker than the adults sounds.Wouldnt recommend school hol's unless you are a parent with kids. STAGE shows -good ,however we noticed a lot of people leaving as it is a bit deafening in there-sound way high. Very quick embarkation and disembarkation -well done Carnival All in all would recommend this cruise line and this boat to all ,fab surroundings and affordable balcony rooms .Going to try the new Carnval Legend when it comes in few months  Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This is a review of the first leg of a three-leg cruise from Long Beach to New York City. This was my second cruise with Carnival since 1996, my Barcelona-Roundtrip cruise in October of 2012 was a very good cruise. -----Check-in in ... Read More
This is a review of the first leg of a three-leg cruise from Long Beach to New York City. This was my second cruise with Carnival since 1996, my Barcelona-Roundtrip cruise in October of 2012 was a very good cruise. -----Check-in in Long Beach. The check-in process in Long Beach was a disaster. While it took only two hours for my wife and I, there were many stories of people that waited for 3, 4 or even 5 hours to get on board. The ship left Long Beach about three hours late that evening and this caused us to be late at our first port of call. While there was no official explanation as to what went wrong it appeared to be because they had too few computers and too few staff to check us in. The woman that processed my wife and I was poorly trained and showed no sense of urgency. She did not know that it was OK for me to have a valid, in-date Brasil visa in an expired passport. She had to get up from her station and find a supervisor to get an OK. I saw many of the check-in clerks get up and leave their stations while I was in this long line. Since I was pre-registered, all that needed to be done was to collect my health declaration, my passport and Brasil visa, give me a receipt for the passports, confirm my identity, and had me my cabin key. I didn't even have to sign anything. What should have taken a minute or two took about 15 minutes. The long delay might have been forgivable if Carnival would have made us more comfortable. There were no chairs for us to sit on, we had to stand in line the entire time, some of us outdoors and some indoors. I thought that our awful check-in procedure was the result of some bad luck but I see from older reviews that long waits for check-in is the norm for this ship. -----My cabin My cabin was clean and ready for me to move in by the time I boarded at 2:30 pm. There were a few problems: One of the chair legs was missing a glide on the bottom, the plastic had come off and just a nail was sticking out, this made sliding the chair on the carpet difficult. One of the desk drawers was broken and would not pull out at all. The other three were just difficult to pull out. A four screws on the bathroom door handle were loose making it difficult to latch door. Two light bulbs were burned out. The closet doors creaked loudly, like the doors on a haunted house. The toilet leaked constantly, by morning it was close to overflowing. The shower would not drain quick enough to keep up with inflowing water. The sink stopper would not close. All of these, to the credit of the ship's staff were corrected quickly. One problem that persists is the noise in the cabin. There is a lot of plumbing noise and from a crew work area. Another noise problem comes through the vents in the cabin door, we can hear everything that people say as they pass by our cabin. On other ships the cabin doors had no vents and were much more sound-proof. I have solved this problem during the night by stacking the excess pillows in front of the vent at the bottom of the cabin door. -----Dinning Room We stopped going to the main dinning room for dinner after the first week of our 17 day cruise. Three of the dinners were very good and three were disasters. Of the bad dinners, the food was often cold or poorly prepared, service was slow, and there were long waits to be seated during "Your Time Dining". The "shows", put on by the supervisors and wait staff were very annoying. Our meals were interrupted by these noisy, poorly produced and performed shows. The staff was stretched too thin to provide good food service and taking them away from their duties to provide us with such poor entertainment was silly. The menu descriptions usually did not accurately describe the actual meal. The worst offender was a "Sweet and Sour Shrimp in Noodles", this turned out to be heavily breaded deep-fried shrimp with noodles on the side. No mention was made that this meal was deep-fried. One morning, near the end of breakfast service, there were three couples waiting for tables next to a window. During the long wait to be seated I noticed that there were five unoccupied but uncleared tables next to windows. I also noticed that instead of clearing these tables so that we could be seated, the wait-staff was clearing less desired tables, and these tables were being readied for lunch. -----The Lido Buffet It's often crowded at breakfast and lunch, so crowded that it is often hard to find a table. I often found many of the tables occupied with readers and card players, it's hard to blame them because there are few other quiet/comfortable areas with a nice view of the sea. At the buffet breakfast they serve a wide assortment of foods, but they have had a problem with running out of foods such as non-fat milk, we have not had that for about a week. They ran out of bananas one day and then only had unripened bananas for two days after that. We were in the lands of Banana republics and we had none to eat! One day there was no oranges, the next day they were available if you asked for one. Usually the green melons and canalopes are hard and tasteless, but I did have had some good ones. At dinner there is usually only one small section of the buffet line serving food and the selection is very limited. The thing I like about dinner here is that I can count on getting a fairly good meal here and have it in a relaxed environment. -----Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt There are four machines where we can get cones or bowls of soft serve ice cream or frozen Yogurt. There are two pairs of machines about 80 feet apart, each pair has an ice cream machine and a frozen yogurt machine. In the yogurt machines they have one dispenser of chocolate every day and they alternate between vanilla or strawberry every other day. I prefer to have vanilla frozen yogurt for health/dietary/taste reasons. When I asked the Food Services Manager if they could have the strawberry in one machine and vanilla in the other machine, every day, he told me that they could not do that. He told me that Carnival passengers like it that way. His assertion was that passengers that wanted either vanilla or strawberry would prefer to wait a day for their flavor than walk from the port side of the ship to the starboard side. At first I thought that this is a good example of the stupidity of the Splendor management but maybe it is the passengers who are stupid, if that's what they are willing to accept. -----Cruise director Malcolm makes excessive announcements during the day, those late at night and early in the morning were most annoying. I understand that they have to do some of these to help sell their products and services but much of the announcement was just non-sense, a lot of it was him taking credit for good weather or marine life sightings. Some announcements were over-explained and some underexplained. One day, our daily planner mentioned that the dress code was "Elegant", in Malcolm's late morning announcement he slipped in a mention that tonight's dress was "Casual". At that point, we didn't know who was wrong, was it Malcolm or the daily planner? He did this again in the early afternoon and we still were not sure. Eventually, he came on an announce that a mistake was made, that "Elegant" would be on the next day which was Valentine's day instead of today. ------Time Zone Time Changes Our first time-change went unannounced and after that they did a better job of letting us know. This seems to be on of the few cases where they learned something from their mistake. -----Entertainment The theater is set up more like a lounge than a theater. The floor has no slope and the rows are far apart to allow for the small drink tables. For those seated at the back of the lower deck there is a small slit to see the stage, between the people ahead of you and the low ceiling. Along with the ceiling support poles this makes it difficult to see much of the stage and screens. The sound crew usually had the volume up too high and over amplified. The lighting crew often had lights shining in the eyes of people in the audience. Seats on the upper levels are either to the side of the stage or very far from the stage. There are very few good seats in the theater. I liked a few of the shows, most of them I didn't like. -----Getting on and off the ship At one port where we had to take a shuttle to get us to the port's entrance, they made us get free tickets. Instead of streamlining things it just gave us one more line to go to and wait in. We had to go out of our way to get the tickets, then we had to wait for our ticket numbers to be called, and then, we had to wait in a long line to get on the shuttle. At several ports we were required to use a shuttle bus even though we were allowed to walk when I was here on another cruise. At another port, where the ship was late in arriving, those of us who were not on ship's tours were not cleared until 50 minutes after those on ship's tours where released. This was at a docked port, not a tender port. At one port they were going to charge us US$ 8 for a very short, mandatory, shuttle ride. The guys on the stage were boo'ed by the audience loudly and for a long time. The guys explained that this was not the decision of Carnival, that Carnival didn't get any of that money. A few hours later the Cruise Director made an announcement that the shuttle was free and that it was a misunderstanding. So, now I don't know if they changed their minds because of the outpouring of complaints or if the guys on stage didn't know what they were talking about. One of them was an Excursion Supervisor and should have know. We have been late for our arrivals in several ports, that cheats us out of time in port. That we are often leaving late doesn't make up for it because we had to be back on the ship on time. -----Ship Cleanliness This is one of the few areas where this ship excels. The ship was very clean. -----Electrical outlets My cabin has one American-style outlet (110v) and one European-style outlet (220v) at the desk and an electric razor outlet in the bathroom. If you want to use a laptop, there are several places through-out the ship where you can find seating and either 110v or 220 outlets. ----------Summary I've got a little more than a month to go before this set of cruises ends in NYC, I hope that I am able to give a better review on the next two cruises. Of our thirty-five cruises, this Carnival Splendor cruise was the worst ever, it seems that the current management and staff does not care to, or is not capable of providing a good cruise product. There are a lot of nice cruises in the world, avoid this ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Carnival Long Beach to Santiago Chile leg 1. I just read the first review on this cruise, and was wondering if i was on the same ship. we found the cruise, with the exception of the embarkation disaster, extremely pleasant. when one ... Read More
Carnival Long Beach to Santiago Chile leg 1. I just read the first review on this cruise, and was wondering if i was on the same ship. we found the cruise, with the exception of the embarkation disaster, extremely pleasant. when one cruises with Carnival , you have to expect something less than perfect. after all "you get what you pay for". Embarkation: what a disaster. we have to agree with the previous reviewer. it really was quite stupid on carnivals part. no matter what they did after it, they still probably lost a good percentage of repeat business. As any marketing person knows, you don't make the client angry in the beginning. And no comp of any kind. Unbelievable. Cabin: Really quite pleasant. Clean, bright and roomy. Downside is only one 110 plug in the whole cabin. we had read about this before and brought a multi-plug extension cord which solved the problem. Dining: We found the Black Pearl anytime dining to be quite exceptional. we rarely waited for a table. we found an great waiter team and stayed at his table for the duration of the cruise. we have found that some waiters better than others. when we found poor service, we tried another area until we found one that was good. we never had to wait for our entrees, and were always greeted with smiles. Food was fine. If we did not like it, we sent it back and tried something else. the Lido buffet was ok. we only went there for breakfast. we found going there just before they closed eliminated the the crowd problem. The best food we found was at the deli and the pizza counter. food was good with very little wait time. Staff: We found most of them very attentive and friendly. Especially the room service people. Entertainment: It was poor to excellent. the guy called the Mentalist was really great. I still don't know how he did it. Th main shows singers were OK, but the dancers were real professional. We got off in Santiago, to fly over to Buenos Aires for a week of Tango and eating. Buenos Aires is such a sweet city. We will be picking up the Splendor for the final leg to NYC. So, did we enjoy ourselves? yes we did. Except for the embarkation fiasco, it was what a carnival cruise usually is. A low priced, low end cruise. As i said before, you get what you pay for!!!!! As to the other bad review, i can agree with some of the gripes, but not with the others. it was not a bad cruise in totality. Just one with good and bad. Like life is. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Carnival offered a terrific deal for its Splendor repositioning cruise from the Mexican Riviera run to New York. We bit even though we knew the Splendor had a troubled past and some bad reviews. After signing up, we read a lot of bad stuff ... Read More
Carnival offered a terrific deal for its Splendor repositioning cruise from the Mexican Riviera run to New York. We bit even though we knew the Splendor had a troubled past and some bad reviews. After signing up, we read a lot of bad stuff about the last cruise to Mexico and the final run to Hawaii and back. Then the Carneval Triumph took the news for weeks and friends declared us crazy. But it was a dandy cruise all in all. Good food mostly, and mostly in the main dining rooms as we tried assigned seat dining for the first time. Better than average cabin service. Pretty good entertainment. Lost of push for Fun Fun Fun! And a dandy CD, Malcolm (WooHoo!) who merits his high repute. Splendor is too big for our taste -- three feet wider than Panamax. The crew seems to have conquered chair hogging, but we didn't get a lot of good sun days and the lid over the Lido deck never got opened. We took only two cruise company excursions -- to and from the ship. Both illustrated the main problem: the ship was in uncharted water, using pickup crews for embarkation, debarkation and excursions. (We had several great excursions; thanks CC pals.) At the Santiago airport, the CCL folks had a loose grip, and arrangements at Valparaiso were a little crazy. At the Buenos Aires end, the price of transport to the airport including a little tour was out of sight. So we took just transportto the airport. The bus dropped us at a downtown hotel and the driver told us to hang out there for the 11 hours before our flight left. We had a basement conference room with some pop, coffee and pretty good pastry. After a while we hooked up with a private tour around town that offered more and cost a third of the price for the CCL arranged tour. When it was finally time for us to transfer our luggage from the luggage truck back to the coach and head for the airport, there was no CCL representative in evidence. All of that was manageable, but it really suffered in comparison to the HAL treatment of Veendam cruisers who were with us most of the way around. The crew flubbed a couple of itinerary points evidently from lack of experience on the run. We did get $100 OBC credit each when the ship got to the Chilean Fjords after it was too dark to enjoy them. The most exciting moment on the cruise came when the captain was executing a sharp turn to begin the circumnavigation of Cape Horn (which is a small island). A stiff wind caught the ship broadside as she turned and she heeled over steeply enough to dump the pools and hot tubs. We are really glad we got home while the rest of them still had two weeks to get to New York. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
The Ports we visited where great. The Splendor was run by a bunch of kids that really didn't seem to know what they were doing. We departed Los Angeles over four hours late after waiting in line for hours. Of course they say how sorry ... Read More
The Ports we visited where great. The Splendor was run by a bunch of kids that really didn't seem to know what they were doing. We departed Los Angeles over four hours late after waiting in line for hours. Of course they say how sorry they are but that is all they say and they said it a lot on this cruise. Now let me make it clear I am talking about the Customer Service people and Excursion people. The room service and food service staff did a great job. We didn't require many extras as we didn't eat in the dining room very often and we keep a very neat room. They were very good about taking care of a problem or just answering questions. Got into first Port of Call late as we departed LA late by the time they got us tendered to shore we only had a few hours not a big deal in Cabo San Lucas. Second port Huatulco, Mexico they seem to be getting their act together. Guatemala fell apart people had no idea what they were doing or where to go. We had no idea what buses to get on for our tours. It was not good. The Guatemala people did a great job of getting us on the right buses for our tours and then did great tours. Then came Ecuador and they seem to be getting it really together. They had made a video for their TV channel played it over and over to tell us what to do when we arrived and how to get to the buses. My wife and I told them the video was great that most people seem to know what they were doing. We told them to keep it up. Let me say they didn't. There were other little problems that keep coming up that I will not go into details here but let's just say they were sorry a lot. Now we are going to Santiago, Chile where we will depart the cruise. We had discussed with them a couple of times getting our Passports back. They said no problem it was already arranged. We got a notice to that different decks were to show up at different times. They had it together. I was so wrong. We showed up for our time and the line was long, long and long through the dining room. It seems they didn't open on time and only had boxes of passports for a couple decks but now had most decks waiting. It took us over an hour just to pick up a passport. There were some very not so nice people. We even had security show up I do not know for sure but we did hear there were some problems. Again, we are sorry. The final insult was in Santiago. We had a night flight out on American Airlines I was concerned when we were booked on American by Carnival but the flight from Orlando to LA was great on time nice crew. I was surprised. With a night flight we sign up for and all day tour overall a good tour. They had taken our bags that morning and said we would get them back at the airport were they right. All the bags where just out-side the front of the terminal. You had to go waking around hundreds of bags to find yours and you have no idea who had access to them while out on the curb. I would never admit that I didn't have it under my control. We find our bags go inside the terminal and wow hundreds and hundreds of people everywhere. We start asking where the American Airlines Counter is located. We are told that is the line so we get in it. It is long and I mean long and not to organized but we are there at 6:00 and our flight doesn't depart till 9:50 four hours what's to worry. We made it to the plane by 9:10 over three hours in a line that was crazy to say the least. Many things went on while in this line. One thing I found out was that American doesn't even open till 7:00 we had to spend an hour in line just to wait for them to open. Hundreds and hundreds of people and they couldn't open. About 8:00 I ask one American Airlines person what if we don't make it up in time to check our bag and get to the plane. He just shrugged his shoulders. Just too many things wrong with this cruise and flight. We have already booked to go back to South American in January but not with either one of these clowns.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
I have taken 76 cruises and have never been on a bad one, some are better than others of course. This one was pretty bad from start to finish. I booked this one for the itinerary, Long Beach to Buenos Aires, two legs of a trip ( 31 days) ... Read More
I have taken 76 cruises and have never been on a bad one, some are better than others of course. This one was pretty bad from start to finish. I booked this one for the itinerary, Long Beach to Buenos Aires, two legs of a trip ( 31 days) where the third leg took passengers from Buenos Aires to New York. It took nearly 5 hours to board in Long Beach with no chairs anywhere for a generally older crowd to sit. The people checking us in were unconcerned with the long lines. The ship frequently left each port between 1 and 3 hours late, well after the posted times. Many times the announcements were inaccurate regarding evening dress, entertainment times, etc. There was a real problem with the quality of food in the dining room and the Lido, where much of the food arrived cold on a regular basis. I have never experienced this on a cruise before. For some reason the cruise director started making announcements on the loudspeakers in the hallways starting at about 7 in the morning so it was impossible to sleep in. The majority of the time he just read the information that was already on the daily newsletter so it really was unnecessary. The entertainment was mixed - a few really good shows in the main showroom, but the comedy club had several really poor shows. One comedian was so unprepared he put a laptop computer on a stool and read his jokes. Several seemed to think it enhanced their show to use four letter words in every sentence rather than just tell jokes. For some reason the ship made many of us change rooms after the first leg, which was inconvenient and unnecessary. On top of that they assigned all of us to new dining tables on the second leg of the cruise so we had to request another table in order to keep the same dining partners. They lost our passports on two occasions and we had to stand in line for nearly an hour each time in order to get them returned. The waiters and room stewards did their best and the ship was very clean; the cabin was very well serviced. Many passengers booked this cruise in order to see the Fiords off of Chile, but the ship did NOT go there as the brochures indicated they would. The Captain handled this very poorly (giving excuses that made no sense, complicating matters when he changed excuses when people did not believe his statements) and people literally booed him when he agreed to discuss it in the main showroom. The next day everyone was given a $100 per passenger credit. I was fine with this but people that booked higher cost balconies just to see the fiords were still pretty upset. Even the disembarkation was fouled up and took 3 hours to get off the ship. Carnival is known for lower cost cruises compared to other lines, but usually the quality and organization are of a MUCH higher level than this ship delivered. The chaos was the rule, not the exception, unfortunately. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We arrived at the pier in Long Beach at 12.00 pm. The private shuttle driver was told to unload our luggage in an area in the back where the only person in charge asked for a tip to take care of it. At 12.10 pm we stood in line, 2 hours in ... Read More
We arrived at the pier in Long Beach at 12.00 pm. The private shuttle driver was told to unload our luggage in an area in the back where the only person in charge asked for a tip to take care of it. At 12.10 pm we stood in line, 2 hours in the full sun, 1 hour and 20 minutes in the shade. There was nobody in sight to give an explanation, no water was offered and no seats were available for some of the older passengers. Approaching the desks we could see that about one third were not staffed. We are foreigners so we had a long discussion with the person at the desk about our visas and US immigration rules. It took 4 supervisors to answer our question. Consequently it took about 20 minutes to check in. The safety briefing was not taken seriously by the staff. On the upper decks was nobody to guide us to the correct deck and during the briefing staff was not paying attention to the announcements made over the speakers. In order to set my mind at rest I want the safety briefing to be an exercise in case of an emergency. After only a few days we called the Splendor the 'ship-of-the-long-lines'. We didn't like the ship because it seems kitschy. The ornaments are overbearing and take away from the narrow space there is in the first place. This was the first ship that always felt crowded. It had pillars in the way that were real obstacles and many seats in the theater didn't allow a full view of the stage. We were not impressed with our cabin staff on the first leg of the journey. They gave the impression that they did not care too much. The staff on the second leg was very good though. Many seats in the dining room (Black Pearl) were so close together that the serving staff had to balance their trays over people's heads. The majority of the staff did not have proper training. They reached across one person to serve another, served a cold starter before a hot starter, forgot to bring an order or got it mixed up. We missed overall the service with a smile. The serving staff in the Lido was often invisible. The choice of food was very restricted and it was almost always cold. The Lido was not clean. When I looked at the air vents along the windows I saw that they were filthy. The window sills and the floor were often dirty. The cruise director Malcolm was a pain, just loud and not funny. The 'fun' on the 'fun' ships can't be forced on. They have to work for it. Some staff of the guest service was arrogant. A senior member who was supposed to look into our passport issues let us down three times. Although he had promised to keep us informed he did not get back to us once. We had to line up at the guest service desk every time and ask for him. There were too many issues in the organization of the cruise to list them all. The information policy was disastrous. It seemed that they would only make announcements after failures became too obvious to be ignored instead of letting the passengers know in advance when something did not go according to plan. Waiting in line to get back on the ship at some of the ports took up to 1 hour. The only pleasant experiences were the ports along the way. We had sent a complaint to Carnival from Huatulco about the embarkation chaos. It took them 4 weeks to answer with a letter full of platitudes and an apology that wasn't worth the words. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
My 27th cruise and the 6th on a Carnival ship: My group comprised 7 adults: 3 married couples (55-62 yrs) and an active single 60+ lady. I selected this ship because I loved the itinerary and it was a trip I have always wanted to do. ... Read More
My 27th cruise and the 6th on a Carnival ship: My group comprised 7 adults: 3 married couples (55-62 yrs) and an active single 60+ lady. I selected this ship because I loved the itinerary and it was a trip I have always wanted to do. Embarkation: I was boarding (in Valparaiso) on the second leg of a 40+ day voyage so it was not the normal mass confusion -- even with the computers down, processing moved quickly. Now the UGLY: once you finish the check-in, you board a bus to take you to the ship - the bus had NO A/C and it was hot. Once we arrived at the ship pier, the lines were very long due to both embarkation and returning ship passengers, and we were standing in the hot sun. Carnival had one security machine going which made the boarding of passengers a snail's pace; what I could not understand is why we went through a security check before boarding the bus and then repeated the security check boarding the ship. Cabins: Booked an inside cabin and was happy with the space. The room was nicely decorated and through the TV you can order pay per view TV movies, check your ship charges, view different dining menus, plus order room service. The bathroom had nice soap and shampoo stocked dispensers as well as some nice complimentary toiletries. Dining/Food: Superb; I am not a big breakfast person so I used room service, stopped at the Lido buffet and went to the dining room for a brunch. All were good but it now gets better: I am not crazy about buffet lunch but the Lido offerings for lunch were nice; besides the usual normal fare there is an Indian buffet station that was yummy and an excellent made to order sandwich (corned beef/specialties) station on the opposite side. These two stations were my hangouts. The pizza station was also good but it even gets better. I was sailing on a 13Night cruise and was planning on eating at the steakhouse a few nights, but I saved my money - dinner in the main dining room was superb! Every night it featured a different menu (one side is the daily fare), and the choices were excellent to superb; I think I was only disappointed on one occasion. The appetizers were yummy to include 3 nights of different escargot offerings; in addition, our service was outstanding. I chose "Anytime Dining" and it worked well but could use a few improvements. Public Rooms: Very nicely done! The ship features a lot of pink but is not overdone, the 4th and 5th decks serve as the main hub of activity; i.e. with shops, casino, lounges, photo, and library -- main traffic area. A HUGE TV screen is on deck #10 overlooking the pool. This screen displayed various scenes of aquatic life during the day, but evening showings included movies with popcorn if you could eat another bite. Entertainment: You will find music playing at several locations throughout the ship. There is a piano bar, variety music in the lounges, and Karaoke is featured nightly. The Atrium features music (different bands on the ship rotate) and plays till midnight. During the afternoon the Atrium is alive with live music and I noticed many folks dancing away in the afternoon. The disco played a good selection but was empty on most evenings and the casino Texas Holdem table always had a wait list. I was disappointed in the shows offered which consisted mainly of dancing. A fun night was the final "Legends Night" where some 'wannabee' Karaoke passengers performed and had a ball. There were numerous comedy shows which I did not attend. Ports/Excursions: My biggest issue with this sailing: the ship was late at every port even though we arrived at least an hour prior to scheduled time. We were late in clearing or something; didn't always know what but this impacted all the excursion times. In addition, at both tender ports there were not enough tenders which caused more delays and impacted two of my excursions. I could rant and rave but Carnival needs to take a hard look at its procedures and how it communicates to its passengers. I did my own adventurous excursions that are not for everyone. Activities: The variety of usual ship activities (trivia, bean bag toss, etc.) are offered, but not much in terms of athletic activities except for the daily ping pong tournament. Bingo is promoted at different times so there is more than enough to occupy you, and you can always attend the art auction and drink free champagne or window shop in the mall/shops area. Disembarkation: A disaster. You get a number to place on your bags which indicates what time you can disembark; however as per norm on this ship by now, disembarkation started late, and to make matters worse, passengers needed to board buses to another terminal which was too small to handle the numbers of passengers, and it got worse - enough said! Overall: Very nice ship, terrific itinerary, great service, and wonderful staff - what more can be said. Carnival seems to be working hard trying to come up with new and innovative ideas; had it not been for the above mentioned issues, it would have been a perfect cruise. I was told that the average age on the ship was 70+ so I think there was less than the normal Carnival energy level; however, the cruise staff was superb and did everything possible to keep passengers happy. Cruising the Straits was a once in a lifetime experience; I think everybody needs to consider this ship and its itinerary. On a final note I met many people on this cruise who could do nothing else but complain what a shame! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We flew non-stop across "our" beautiful country two days before we set sail to have breathing room in case of bad weather, delays, etc. Nothing was going to hamper this once in a life time adventure. We flew South West and saved ... Read More
We flew non-stop across "our" beautiful country two days before we set sail to have breathing room in case of bad weather, delays, etc. Nothing was going to hamper this once in a life time adventure. We flew South West and saved a fortune on luggage fees. Packing for almost two months for several different climates was a challenge, and layering your clothes was the key. I find that I did over pack and could do with a lot less. Embarkation was unorganized and a nightmare for many. We were lucky being Platinum as we got to sit in air conditioned semi comfort for a good hour until we were told to move outdoors and sit on the retainer walls for another hour until finally getting on the ship about 1pm. Lines of people still standing in the hot sun were visible for many more hours still waiting to board. One of the rumors was about 400 people had no idea that a visa was needed for this cruise and Carnival needed a game plan for these folks. They could not enter Brazil without one, and had to make plans to disembark in Buenos Aries after leg two. We finally were able to go to our cabin after a so so lunch with seating at a premium. We had an ocean view cabin, it was hot, and no air was coming out of the vent even though the control was pegged to cool. We told the room steward and went to customer service. They told us to wait until we sailed, the room would get cooler. Well, people were wearing sweaters in the public areas, so this did not make a lot of sense. We went off to explore the ship and when we returned to our cabin we had most of our luggage and wanted to unpack. Surprising, everything fit!!, even our unpacked luggage fit under the bed! The room was still hot, our clothes stuck to our bodies with all the unpacking. We opened a bottle of our soda, and filled our fridge with our stuff. The line out the window was still there and it was almost time for the drill. An announcement was made that it would be delayed, and we also would be late in sailing. Time for a nap, but too hot to sleep. OK, all aboard, time for the drill, and we really like the fact that you no longer need to wear your jackets. We stood on the deck packed like sardines awaiting this very important procedure. The siren sounded inches from my ear...I did not know how close I was told to stand to it. I thought my head was going to explode and the pain was horrific. I was taken to the medical unit and given ear drops as the DR did say my ears looked irritated. It was pain drops and I could not hear with them in but needed to use them for about 10 days. My ears are still not right and feel plugged up two months later. I made an effort to go to dinner, late seating, and we had a table for four and met a wonderful couple that we clicked with right away, and they became our table mates for the entire 48 days, along with our serving crew. Dinner was a special occasion each and every night as we looked forward to sharing experiences with our new friends, and the wit and charm of Fernando was a delight. Thank goodness for our new friends and our serving staff as the food was a disappointment. You will not go hungry, but after several weeks, I was ready for my own cooking. We went to the Welcome Aboard show and Malcolm the CD was a bit over the top, witty, and truly a people person who loves his job. I do not know how he kept his composure the whole seven weeks with a smile on his face and a hello to anyone and everyone. We returned to our still hot room, peeled off our clothes, called about the no air again, and went to bed. We were told the air would be fixed "tomorrow" It was not, we were given a run a round with all the excuses on Earth...I actually took my pillow to Guest Relations and asked where I was to sleep ? I comfied up on the couch right by the main desk, as it was nice and cool. Security escorted me back to my cabin where I found a pow wow going on with my husband, the maintenance dept, and a few Stripes. They gave us a fan. We had a well organized cruise critic group that really could have run this cruise a lot better than Carnival. Carnival was unorganized, and giving out wrong information from day one to day fourty eight. The right hand did not know what the left hand was doing most days, from port info, to elegant night. Our lecturer, Mickey Live was the glue that helped make things happen.....like maps, and accurate info. The Splendor is in bad need of rehab, from the dirty room curtains, stained and soiled public seating, and sinking into booths where I needed a booster seat. The decor of pink has to go, it is worn, outdated. The Nancy Drew/Jersey Boys wall covering is over done. The crew is always disinfecting and the smell of bleach is everywhere. The free laundry? You get what you pay for. Our clothes were returned to us faded, dinghy, and old looking as if they were stone washed in a river. I did a lot of rinsing things out in the sink. The pizza and deli are excellent alternatives for the Lido food at lunch which was another disappointment. How come we ran out of bananas in major banana ports? How come the beef was tough when we were in Argentina/Brazil? Late dinner lost out on prime seating for deck/equator parties, many comedy acts, and dance sets. The club did not play the oldies/motown by the time we got there from the show. We always missed "our" music. Most production shows were excellent, even though we saw most three times. The other nightly shows were enjoyable with the exception of just a few. This was definitely a multi-cultural mix of passengers. Many thought they were more privileged than others, and butted in line, were rude, disrespectful by slapping the Captain, and even sitting in my lap because they wanted my seat in the theatre. Some of this was unbelievable, but yes, very true!! The ports were amazing and very refreshing from the same ole Caribbean. It was wonderful to have new experiences, see new things, and make more memories. Not everyone can "live on a cruise ship" for seven weeks with their partner/spouse/friend, but it worked for us and we would do another long cruise again. Now that we have been home for five days, we are still "cruise sick" meaning that hubby and I are still dry coughing with a sore throat. Many, many of us still are. I do not think the ventilation system is maintained properly leading to this cruise sickness. This ship is used to mainly seven day runs......you complain, and you go away. This time we did not go away. We were sailing for seven weeks and a lot of neglected behind the scenes maintenance slipped through the cracks. Would we do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat!! On the same ship? Only if dry docked and redone. Yes, this was a cruise of a lifetime, Cruise Critic was a major positive influence, and could not have been enjoyed as we did without our wonderful group. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Took the 48 day (3 back to back legs) around south America starting in Long beach California on February 3 and ending in New York City on March 2. (my points may be out of order as they happened on the cruise) First it started off in ... Read More
Took the 48 day (3 back to back legs) around south America starting in Long beach California on February 3 and ending in New York City on March 2. (my points may be out of order as they happened on the cruise) First it started off in Long Beach, almost 4 hours late leaving port, inefficiency to the extreme handling the flow of people, there was also confusion as they did not seem to know how to handle those who had not gotten their brazil visas, we had ours and we arrived at the port around 1130 am and got on the ship around 2 pm, many had far longer waits. Since I have a disability and travel with a powered travel scooter I usually get on very fast - this was the exception, and they did not have enough manual wheelchairs to cover the needs of those that could not stand for lengthy periods of time - then you had group leaders trying to pull ranks and try and get all the available wheelchairs for the needs of their group. Next poor flow of information from people making decisions on the ship, one of worse situations was when they heavily promoted the visit to the Chilean Fjord and Mickey Live (a presentation in the ship's theatre) pumped everyone up and stating that we would be entering the Fjords any moment now, when I left the show all you could see is open sea and within an hour later an announcement was made that there had been an error in communication that the ship would not have been able to get there until very late at night when no one could see anything, then a major mob assembled at the guest services - fights where on the verge of breaking out - security was called in - and this spilled over unto the next day- they gave each passenger $ 100 refund on their accounts - but some people choose this cruise based on the fact that they would be going through this passage and we did not. I checked with guest services to be sure what ship and shore time would be at all the South America ports as I had at several ports private arranged excursions so this was very important - I was told that all south America ports would be the same time as shore time - wrong one port in Chile was a different time but I was ok that time as I had no excursions booked - then again I checked and again I was told all remaining ports would match ship time - then mid evening just before Montevideo Uruguay I find out that shore time was one hour later than ship time - too late to do anything about it, which made our arrival in port at the same shore time as my private tour was to start, on top of that we where late arriving. When I complained all they would say is they would waive the cost of a phone call to the tour agent but it was far too late at that time to call, they also told me I could get off the ship immediately after the ship was cleared as they where no longer going to be using the sticker system and take priority in getting people on carnival excursions off first - wrong again the next morning carnival cruise excursions where issuing stickers and getting them off as a priority, but I managed to bypass any blocking of the flow of who and when to get off and went up to the 9th floor and got on the correct elevator to get down to deck 0 where I could get off. In Valparaiso, Chile where leg 1 ended and leg 2 cruise started, 2 different exits depending on if you where getting off and not coming back and another for back to back cruisers. The back to back cruisers had to get off on a much higher deck and those staying off where getting off on deck 0. The issue was for mobility impaired people was that the angle at the upper deck was approaching roller coaster angles, highly dangerous for wheelchair users and anyone with mobility impairments - I went to deck 0 hoping to take the safe ramp off, I was stopped and refused (since I was on back to back cruises) and forced to go to the higher deck to get off, there was people in tears terrified going down this ramp, they where putting people lives at risk and they did not care. Coming back I just went to the deck 0 entrance and no one stop be from returning to the ship using the better safer ramp. In Buenos Aires, Argentina (leg 2 ended and leg 3 started) They had 2 exits on deck 0 one for back to back cruisers and one for people not coming back - maybe they finally learned from the last time - although they did back an announcement stating back to back cruisers the exit was at mid ship and those elevators had deck 0 button disabled so we went down on the forward elevators and there was 2 exits near each other there. I was able to get off with travel scooter in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - in fact they had 3 tender platforms and the one mid ship was accessible with ramps - roll on capable onto the tender boats. Now 2 ports in Chile was also tender ports, I checked with shore excursions, and was told the other 2 tender ports would operate the same and I would have no problems in taking the tender to shore at the next 2 ports. Then they sent out a letter to all people that had accessible rooms stating a ban on all motorized scooters or wheelchairs on the tenders, when I tried to pick up tender stickers the morning in port I was told the same, they also only ran 1 tender platform from what I could see, so only my wife went to shore, yet there was ramps at the shore. Before even starting on the trip I had talked to someone on the phone at Carnival and was told there was plenty of help and there would be no problem bringing the travel scooter on the tender to shore. Generally all cruise lines indicated that wheelchairs and scooters must be collapsible and they are required to carry more than 100 pounds, mine weighs 108 pounds but very quickly comes apart into lighter weight sections so I definitely meet the criteria. I can do stairs if someone is with me, hand rails it better which the ship stairs to tender has. The stateroom 8342 I found a bit small but ok, noise issue as late at night you could hear deck chairs being dragged on the pool deck above, also the pool machinery room was right beside the room. New York - Absolute disaster - People with no checked in luggage go off in a timely manner, everyone else took hours, according to the schedule everyone should have been off by 1030 am, they where only letting a few people off at a time, again people where almost in fights, I had a flight at 3:40 pm figured it would be no issue and expected to be at airport around noon- wrong again - it was into the afternoon by the time I got off, went through customs & immigration, had issues in getting porters to carry luggage as their was no self serve luggage dollies at all, got to where our pre arranged pre-bought carnival airport transfer was, absolute total disorganization there, waiting hours people there did not have a clue what to do, no one knew what bus what to what airport, large numbers of people where missing flights, people where on the verge of fighting each other, absolutely no security there, we arrived at the airport not at the departure level but the bus dropped everyone off at arrival level, some had to even get other shuttles to different terminals of that airport as the bus only dropped at the central terminal, we arrived at 3:40 pm the time the aircraft was taking off - 8 hours after the ship docked in New York, had to go to the check in counter and booked alternative flights. When we where about to leave the port - one person that was handling the buses came on and thanked everyone for not killing him, or throwing him in the river. Ship was great, we picked it based where it was going and cost, middle management was poorly prepared and disorganized, major changes is needed here. The regular people that we came across that worked on the ship was 2nd to none, nothing but the best, but management was far too disorganized. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We did all three legs of this cruise because of the itinerary and the reasonable cost. We felt that it was an opportunity not to be missed and were also attracted to the fact that we would be embarking and disembarking at U.S. ports. I ... Read More
We did all three legs of this cruise because of the itinerary and the reasonable cost. We felt that it was an opportunity not to be missed and were also attracted to the fact that we would be embarking and disembarking at U.S. ports. I think everyone goes into a cruise with expectations in line with their own preferences and therefore all reviews are very subjective. The cruise was pretty much what I expected it to be. First of all, for me it was a bit too long and I doubt I would do such a long cruise again. Things lagged on the third cruise and I think Carnival let us down in this. My biggest complaint is that Carnival did not really attempt to vary the entertainment on board. Many of the shows were repeated and there was no excuse for repeating the shows on the Lido movie screen over and over. I understand the production shows need to be repeated, but do we really need to see four hypnotists? Do we really need to see any? We took only ship shore excursions. While I would give the excursions an average rating, I woulld give Carnival a poor rating on organizing the departure of the tours. We often had long wait times in the theatre and a few times instructions were not clear, especially on the days that the ship arrived late into port. Some passengers with mobility issues had difficulty with the long lines winding down the stairs to exit the ship. As far as service, went I would give our room stewards an A++++, some of our waiters an A+ and the gift shop employees a C. Food in the Lido at lunch and dinner was good and varied. Menus in the dining room were repeated too often and I felt service to be a bit slow although for some reason this differed from one leg of the cruise to another... I guess it mattered where you were seated. My interest in the ports varied. Some I loved - Montevideo, Salvador, Manta, Ushuaia. Buenos Aires and Rio are just too large to effectively visit with one day in port...most of our time was spent in traffic. This is a very subjective area so others would have a different viewpoint. There were other problems on board that some passengers felt were much more serious. Many were angry that we did not see the fjords, but that is the nature of a cruise...some ports willbe missed due to weather and sea conditions and I had heard that Carnival management in Miami made that decision (read the fine print in the contract about their right to change the itinerary). Would I do this itinerary again? No, but I knew that going in. Would I sail Carnival again? Probably but only on the type of cruise they do best...short cruises that aim for fun and relaxation, not cruises that are unusual and more history and nature based. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We were attracted to this cruise by both the price and the itinerary. We had never taken a cruise down the West coast of South America, and this seemed like a a great opportunity. Although the ship was going all the way to New York from ... Read More
We were attracted to this cruise by both the price and the itinerary. We had never taken a cruise down the West coast of South America, and this seemed like a a great opportunity. Although the ship was going all the way to New York from Long Beach (48 days) we had only the time to go to Santiago Chile (17 days). We were a little hesitant about taking the Splendor because of its history (caught fire and towed back to Los Angeles in 2010) but we also knew that this history would result in a great bargain, which it was. We had an ocean-view room, and the whole thing, including gratuities but excluding shore excursions, came to less than $100 per day per person. To start at the beginning, embarkation was a nightmare, since Carnival had not specifically warned passengers who were continuing to Brazil that they would need a visa, even if they stayed on the ship. Many didn't realize this, and had to make long and complicated changes at check-in. Check-in wasn't helped by the fact it was superbowl Sunday, and there were just five clerks (there were 16 possible stations) who showed up for work. We got there at 11:30am and ended up waiting 2.5 hours to board, but we know of others who got there a little later and waited six hours in line to check in. Throughout the cruise there were many more glitches, with announcements about ports and activities often being confusing or wrong, and not enough forethought in organizing things. The naturalist who was supposed to be on the ship never made it, and they pressed the photography expert--Mickey--into doing that, but it clearly wasn't his thing. The cruise director--Malcolm Woo Hoo Burn--was personable and seemed to try hard, but was just not up to organizing things properly. We went to all the shows and comedians, and generally enjoyed them, especially the production numbers, the ventriloquist, and the comedy juggler. A couple of comedians and shows were a bit underwhelming, including Laura Ernst, who had a novelty act performing in a hamster ball. Although she was athletic, she just wasn't funny, even though she tried hard. Didn't really enjoy the guy whose main act was hammering three-inch nails up his nose. We almost always ate the evening meal in the main dining room, and the food was always good and served hot. The buffet was quite small, poorly organized, and limited, especially in the evening. Because of our late departure from Long Beach, we always seemed to be running late, so the early dining proved to be a challenge, and we often got there 30-45 minutes after it opened. However, our server--WiWi--was very good and always made sure we got our food. We were at a table for 8, and everything was always correct and served hot and on time. As for the staff we almost always found them friendly and courteous. Our cabin steward--Voltar--was just excellent, and the room was always made up promptly and efficiently, even including the towel animals that we still somehow enjoy. When we got off at Valparaiso, we took the tour that ended at Santiago airport, but had possibly the worst tour guide in our lives. Not only was she not knowledgable, she was prone to long silences, and even lost members of our tour group in Santiago, after failing to mention the bus would be in a different place from where we got off. She didn't go looking for the missing passengers at the drop-off point, and finally another passenger found them. When we got to the airport, we found all our suitcases just sitting on the sidewalk outside the terminal, with no supervision whatsoever. However, we are not the type of people who let various glitches spoil our cruise, and we still enjoyed it overall. It helped that we took a separate tour to Easter Island after the cruise, which is just an awesome place, by the way! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
I'm single & was wanting a budget friendly vacation with some girlfriends. We booked with Carnival Elation for July 2012. I cant think of anything negative to say. Ive never traveled outside the U.S., or been on a cruise. From our ... Read More
I'm single & was wanting a budget friendly vacation with some girlfriends. We booked with Carnival Elation for July 2012. I cant think of anything negative to say. Ive never traveled outside the U.S., or been on a cruise. From our hotel stay before the cruise, to the end of our cruise, everyone was very helpful, polite & friendly. We were well taken care of. The food was good & plentiful. Pool & sunbathing was great. Bars were fun & service was top notch. Our room was tiny, but spotless. We were only in it long enough to sleep & get dressed. We did whatever we wanted, when we wanted. We wore the furnished, big, terrycloth robes, out on deck one morning at 3:00AM to drink coffee & smoke. Crew & passengers would smile or chuckle at us. We shopped at Cozumel & ate at a great bar that was geared for fun. The ship was scrubbed & spotless daily. The crew members worked very hard & deserved more gratuities than they got. We never heard an unkind word from crew members or passengers, everyone was polite & forgiving. For the price we paid, I feel we got more than we expected. I'm ready to go again! This cruise is for people wanting to be out & doing activities & view the ocean. We didn't go to spend time in our room. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Some people may have found this cruise memorable because it had one nightmarish embarkation, complete with an unidentified security breach - most probably a bomb threat - that closed the Port of Fort Lauderdale for ... Read More
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Some people may have found this cruise memorable because it had one nightmarish embarkation, complete with an unidentified security breach - most probably a bomb threat - that closed the Port of Fort Lauderdale for several hours. Carnival Cruise Lines found it memorable because the jaunt from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco marked the first time that any Carnival ship had ventured to the Southern Hemisphere. We found it memorable because it was out first Carnival cruise and possibly the best cruise of the ten cruises we have taken. This assessment is a bit surprising because I did not like the Splendor. The interior decorating scheme - variously described as a result of crack and Peptobismol, or worse - did nothing for me, but, hey, that's their ship and we'll go home eventually. I was much more bothered by the ship's strange use of space. The ship is so cut-up that only the Casino level allows an unhindered, continuous passage through the ship. But many ships are like that these days. What made the Splendor unique, in my view, was that unlike the HAL's Noordam, various Celebrity ships, the Norwegian Dawn and the Emerald Princess, the Splendor did not have a panoramic bar overlooking the ocean in front, or in the back. Instead, that space on the 11th deck was given over to a huge play area for kids. That is grossly misused premium space, if you ask me. The less is said about the embarkation in Fort Lauderdale, the better. We were lucky enough to get on board before the security breach was reported, but as a result, the ship departed at least five hours late. CABIN: We had 7279 on the 7th deck. It was our first inside room and worked just fine. It was on the small side - a balcony cabin on the other side of the hallway looked veritably huge. But it worked for us. It even had a special feature that most other cabins, including balcony cabins, lacked: A complimentary Canon Selphy photo-printer. It came with a sample cartridge, consisting of 10 pages plus the ink and plasticizing cartridge. Someone had left five other unused pages in another cartridge inside. We bought a cartridge for 50 more pictures (for $14 from the ship's photo shop), and back at home ordered a Selphy of our own. The reason: shop-quality prints that are said to last 100 years. Our cabin stewards, Putra from Indonesia and Ludovico, from the Philippines, were outstanding. FOOD: Consistently the best overall of any our cruises. Yes, HAL, Princess and Celebrity have more exciting items. But the meats and fish were first-rate. Soups were weak, and chilled soups a cruel joke, but we had no complaints. There was absolutely no need to consider paying extra for a speciality meal. We had great tablemates (a Frenchman and his French-Canadian wife). Our delightful waters from Myan Mar (Burma) were Win and Soe. We had our breakfasts in the Lido buffet, which was fine, except that I saw no evidence of lox. Perhaps they only serve that in a dining room. For lunch, choices are many. We enjoyed the outstanding Indian grill and sandwich stations. The Mongolian grill and the pizzeria, while good, were overrated. PORTS: I'll skip Dominica and Barbados, where we had been several times. Our first Brazilian port was Fortaleza, which we hit on a Sunday. We strolled on the embankment on a hot day, sat at the beach, and sought the airconditioned comfort of the Splendor. In the afternoon, my wife rested and I took one of H. Stern's shuttles back to the beachfront. H. Stern is a huge international jewelry outfit based in Rio de Janeiro. It made its presence known already in Bermuda, where passengers returning to the ship were handed H. Stern travel planners. From that point on, H. Stern was constantly in the picture. I found its free shuttles invaluable in each of the ports we visited. Our second Brazilian stop was Recife, where we took the H. Stern shuttle to their store, near the Boa Viagem beach. From there we took a cab (for US$60) to Olinda, a spectacularly restored town some seven kilometers away. The cab driver did not speak any English, but stayed with us. In the afternoon, I took another Stern shuttle to Boa Viagem, spent some time in an Internet place, where an hour cost less than $3, compared to the ship's sky-high rates. I liked Recife, a major medical research city. Salvador do Bahia, the one-time center of Brazil's African slave trade, was next. Spectacular. I want to go back. Rio!!! Because it was raining and cloudy, we skipped the mountains. Instead we again took the H. Stern shuttle to the company's headquarters, two blocks from the completely deserted Ipanema. The day being Saturday, only a few gemologists, cutters and polishers were working, but an audio tour offered in 18 languages told us more than we wanted to know. Free drinks were served, including alcoholic ones. The tour ended in the company's store, including an adjoining souvenir place, which gave us an opportunity to tip Stern's services by buying stuff that we could afford. The highlight of the day came in the afternoon. Since the ship was parked near the central business district, I ventured out, hoping to find a rickety old tram that links that area with the fascinating Santa Teresa neighborhood of narrow streets and fantastic late 19th/early 20th century residences on hillsides. The tram, which cost about 40 cents each way, consisted of a single car that traverses a narrow aqueduct dating back to 1895. Since seating capacity was limited, people were hanging on to the old wooden tram, which had no doors or windows. I saw no tourists among the riders. Up in Santa Teresa, a pre-carnival punk carnival was in full swing. Magnificent. I want to go back. Each of our Brazilian stops was followed by a sea day. Between Rio and Buenos Aires we had two. We debarked in Buenos Aires, where another Stern shuttle was in evidence. (In fact, the company had a representative traveling on the Splendor from Barbados to Buenos Aires. He explained that a cadre of 15 such reps travel on most cruise ships visiting Rio). I have posted my report on the post-cruise Buenos Aires experience in the South America section. ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed the shows for what they were. They were all backed up by the ship's outstanding band, an extremely talented aggregation of musicians under the direction of Jim Hanson. Also delighting listeners on his first cruise was the classical pianist Przemek, a world-class talent from Poland. The central location of the Splendor's library excellent; however, the library itself seemed like an afterthought, as were so many other design decisions. It was small and cramped and had few books. If the Noordam's library gets an A, then the Splendor gets a D. There were a few hiccups during the cruise, but nothing major. The biggest hiccup was not of Carnival's making. It was our inability to converse in Portuguese and Spanish. We felt like complete idiots. It occurred to us that if South America can ignore English, perhaps so also can the Chinese when they gain the ownership of the world. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My favorite part of the trip was visiting the ports, even the museums. My favorite port was Puerto Montt and seeing the Chilean horses. Next I liked walking among the penguins in Puerto Madryn. This cruise was a one time event so I ... Read More
My favorite part of the trip was visiting the ports, even the museums. My favorite port was Puerto Montt and seeing the Chilean horses. Next I liked walking among the penguins in Puerto Madryn. This cruise was a one time event so I won't go into each port except to say that we took a lot of Carnival Shore Excursions. They were well planned and offered a variety of choices. I always felt safe, learned a lot and had a wonderful time. Service: I think the staff on the ship must have been hand picked. They were way above expectations in efficiency, friendliness and willingness to serve. Our wait staff was the same through out. Bianca and Gil learned each person's individual tastes. They really anticipated our needs. We received the best table service I have ever had in my 35 cruises. Our cabin steward from the first leg stopped us in the hall during the last week to ask how our trip had been. We saw that same attitude in all areas... not just waiters and cabin stewards but even the purser's desk and Infirmary!! Food: We ate in the Black Pearl for 44 dinners. We ate on shore one night, at the Indian night under the stars once, had room service twice and at the Lido buffet once. I liked everything I ate! I never had a need to visit the specialty restaurant. Those who did said it was excellent. We ate breakfast and lunch mostly on Lido. We especially liked the omelet station in the morning, At lunch we rotated between the stir fry, sandwich station, Indian, hamburger and salad bars. They were all delicious. Embarkation: We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before sailing and stayed at a Comfort Inn near the air port. Our hotel was full of cruisers. On Saturday morning we found ourselves in the middle of about 200 people waiting for various cabs, shuttles and buses to take them to the cruise port to board a ship. We arrived at The Splendor at noon and were in our room at 2:00. We are Platinum so we avoided the lines inside the terminal but waited about an hour and a half out side. Embarkation was a fairly long process but we had fun while waiting in line talking to all the other people. We were among the lucky ones. We first noticed that a Coast Guard boat was telling the small boats in the channel to turn around because the port was closed. It was almost time for departure. We thought they were clearing the area so all the cruise boats could leave without running over the small ones. But out in the parking lot, I could see my suitcase still out there in the parking lot with lots of others and nobody loading baggage. Nobody loading supplies either. In fact there was nobody at all down there on the dock. All the baggage and supplies and trucks just sitting there with nobody around. Over at the vacant cruise terminal next door we could see about 400 people milling around. We thought they might be the ones denied boarding because they didn't have the Brazil visa. We knew that was going to cause some kind of problem and it did for about 150 who were not allowed to board the ship because they did not have a visa for Brazil. Some may go to the Brazilian Embassy in Miami, get a visa and meet the ship in Barbados. But the people in the other terminal were not the ones needing visas. As we watched, the 400 turned into about a thousand. The next thing we heard was an announcement of a security breach. Boarding had been halted by the Coast Guard and all in Terminal 21 were moved to the terminal across the way.... all 1000 of them... passengers and crew. We and many others watched as dogs sniffed the luggage. Five suitcases were picked out and the remote control robot handled each one. We never saw anything found and eventually the Coast Guard reopened the port and allowed other ship to set sail and The Splendor to continue boarding. There were some exasperated people who finally started to board the ship at about 8:00. They had spent 5 dreadful hours in an open terminal building with almost no food and limited water. Room service from the Carnival Freedom did deliver sandwiches, fruit and drinks to the terminal but passengers rushed the food taking much more than a share for one. Some people got none. It turns out that there was a package of paper tied together with wire that set it all off. Better safe than sorry. We were glad we had made it on board to enjoy a pleasant evening. Many of our Cruise Critic friends were not so lucky. They filled us in on all the details at the Meet and Greet on Sunday. Cabin: We changed cabins each leg of the three cruises. It was cheaper for us that way. The move was easy. We just packed bags, left them in our room, went ashore and the cabin steward moved it all for us. Each cabin was just the same. We had a balcony cabin and it was perfect. It was comfortable and there was plenty of room for us and all our "stuff." Entertainment: Thanks to Goose, the cruise director, the entertainment on board was outstanding. The best we have experienced on any cruise. They were creative in order to keep us entertained. There were all sorts of activities in addition to the usual cruise activities like trivia, pool games, art auctions, Bingo (about once a week... not everyday.), games and of course the Casino. * The singers and dancers were superb and very energetic. * Comedians, jugglers, singers and ventriloquist were the normal average sort. * The entertainment in the bars and lounges was great too. * Goose was creative by bringing some of the house acts into the showroom for performances. * The piano player in the piano bar had carpel tunnel though and had to stop playing at times. * The naturalist Dirk is fun, approachable and interesting. The ports would never have been as much fun without having first listened to his talks. * There were drawing lessons. * Picture taking and Photoshop seminars given by MickeyLive. These were very worth while. * There were crafts classes. They even gave you all the materials for the crafts. Lots of people were working on needlepoint. Even the men. I wish I had gone to the classes. * We went to Spanish and Portuguese classes. They were entry level but we always learned something. * We enjoyed going to the Writer's Workshop where they would share their writing and coach each other. * Bridge lessons and Duplicate Bridge sessions were been well attended. * There was a Super Bowl party, lots of deck parties and two Ecuador crossing ceremonies. * There were on board movies shown on the big screen by the pool and in the cabins. I would like to have seen a better variety of movies. We watched the same moves several times. New movies started to be shown but US TV was back on by then so it didn't make much difference. * Because there were a lot of sea days people brought lots of games and books. The Lido became a game area in the afternoon. Sometimes it was hard to find a table to sit at to eat. We usually just asked to join someone already seated. The longest we were between ports was three sea days. I really liked sitting on the balcony with my book. Sometimes concentrating on the pages was difficult. I liked sitting out there and just looking at the sea. You had to look closely but once your eyes adjust you can see all sorts of sea life. * Birds of all kinds flying, floating and diving. * Whale's spouts and whales breaching. * Dolphins traveling in groups looked like a cluster of white caps at first. * Sea lions swam along under water and then lifted their heads to look around. * The fish mostly stayed under water but some moved across the top of the water by propelling themselves with their fins. * When we saw kelp floating, we know other wild life ass close by. We could sit out there for hours just watching the water go by. The sun rising and setting was another treat. I will never forget how brilliant the orange in the sky as the sun set as we were leaving Puerto Madyrn and Arica. Or the way the sun burst out over the horizon arriving in Ecuador. I would recommend a balcony cabin for a long trip like this was. Fellow Passengers: The average age of the passengers was 65 to 67. For the most part they were delightful to travel with. We met friends for life. Some though were very grumpy and miserable. They complained about everything. It was almost like they didn't want to be there in the first place. The complaining started the first day we boarded about things that might/could happen. If you are thinking about a long cruise be sure that is what you really want to do. Once you get started it is hard and costly to go back. There will be 3000 passengers and your specific wants may not come first. On any voyage it is common for a passenger to bring a virus on board. On short seven day cruises there isn't time for it to spread through the ship. People may get sick when they get home but not on board. The virus came on The Carnival Splendor and almost everyone was affected with the cough. The Infirmary even ran out of cold medication. We shopped in port for antihistamines and cough syrup. People would cough without covering their mouth or cough in their hands and then touch serving pieces. I must have washed my hands 50 times a day but still got it. I was sick for five weeks. The Captain and his Staff: We made it safely around Cape Horn. There were 20 ft waves and winds up to 90 mph winds. I was never scared. The ship rocked and rolled at times but WOW what an adventure to sail around the cape. Thank you to the Captain for making it safe and Thank You to Carnival for making it possible. Debarkation: We hoped debarkation would take a long time. It didn't. I cried as I walked off the Carnival Splendor in San Francisco. I had sailed over 16000 miles. I hated to leave. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
The Ship...Exterior. Beautiful. Very stable, and maneuvers easily in tight spots, as we have witnessed in some ports. The outside deck plans were user-friendly with one minor exception. Would have been nice to be able to walk ... Read More
The Ship...Exterior. Beautiful. Very stable, and maneuvers easily in tight spots, as we have witnessed in some ports. The outside deck plans were user-friendly with one minor exception. Would have been nice to be able to walk completely around the ship, without having to go up and down stairs, or through doors. For casual walkers around the ship, this was a nuisance. There is a running track, but only covered the fore area of ship. Views from different parts of the ship were excellent. Outside walk on Deck 3 limited to side of ship, (port & starboard), no access for views from bow, or stern. Still, a nice walk nonetheless. Lots of deck chairs, although at times some were bundled up, and not available to use, which we thought was a little odd, especially in the sunny warmer days,(this is just a minor point). Good variety of amenities, like basketball court; golf area (netted); golf putting area; three swimming pools (more soaking than swimming); 5 hot tubs (2 indoor); waterslide (very cool!); lots of deck areas; pleasing to the eye. Interior...It's a Carnival ship. Not conservatively decorated! Not a single spot was missed! Spots everywhere. Pink and black, and a host of other colors. Visually very stimulating. For some, maybe too much! Lots of elevators (glass included). Stairways everywhere to keep you fit! Promenade Deck 5 was interesting, as there were shops (actually only two), a casino, coffee bar, a couple of entertainment areas strictly for younger guests, the Red Carpet Disco with super visual and audio equipment, piano bar and at the stern the El Morocco lounge, which is very tastefully decorated. There is also a Formal Shop, where you can buy flowers, or rent tuxedoes (etc). The Spectacular Spectacular (main theatre, forward) was awesome. The sound system rivals the best land-based theatres. The lighting and stage props were also awesome. The two main dining rooms (Decks 3 & 4) being the Gold Pearl (aft) and the Black Pearl (midships) were roomy, comfortable, and yes, visually stimulating. Lots of little nooks and corners where one can rest, or sit. The main lobby (Deck 3) was well arranged with a dance floor, with band stage on one side, and a full counter bar on the other. Off to one side is the Hotel Lobby desk (Purser), and the Excursion Desk. The hallways to the rooms were extra wide, and did not feel cramped, as you walked along. Three laundry rooms were the target of many guests during the cruise, but when you found the empty wash machine, all went well. The Spa (Deck 11), and the gym are awesome. In high demand, timing was everything in obtaining a cardio machine (elliptical, or treadmill). Views were stunning! Well equipped Library, with many games to be lent out, after signing for it. Deck 9 is the location for the main buffet, and several smaller eating venues (grill; Tandoori; pizza etc). My wife is a vegetarian, and she really liked the variety available, the most of any cruise ship thus far. Service...AWESOME!! All crew & staff were marvellous. After travelling on the same ship for 57 days, we became extremely aware as to how hard each and every crew/staff member works, day in and day out! There were no exceptions. Be it room service, or room attendant, to dining room staff, to cooks and chefs, to entertainment on stage and behind the scenes, to engineering, to administration, and of course, to the navigational staff. There were ports of call, and nature talks by Dirk, (excellent!)as well as technical talks (computer-related)by MickeyLive!, which were very informative and entertaining as well. There were table magicians who came to your table, and impressed the diners with their magic. A very nice touch during the dining experience! We were extremely impressed. Announcements were clear. Dining experience...very, very good! Good presentations, and tastefully presented. At times, the selection seemed a little boring, but during the 57-day cruise, that would not be surprising! We still enjoyed each and every meal. Embarkation/Disembarkation...some times a little quirky, and seemed logistically to be awkward (not using two different ramps for different needs, especially when passengers were going out on excursions had to line up with those disembarking the cruise-as this ship did multi-cruises, back to back, and many stayed on ship). This problem should not arise again, as the ship is now doing 7-day cruises, and everyone disembarks at end of each cruise. Staff and crew were very friendly and helpful at all times. There have other reviews for you to read. We are submitting ours to try and give a balanced review. We realize nothing is perfect, and there were some little hiccups here and there. But not enough to warrant criticism. We have travelled with 5 other cruise lines, (11 cruises thus far), and can honestly say we enjoyed our experience with Carnival, and in particular, the Splendor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
I will never cruise on Carnival again! This was my 56th cruise, 8th on Carnival. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Illness, running out of food staples, to misinformation provided by the crew-it all happened! The only ... Read More
I will never cruise on Carnival again! This was my 56th cruise, 8th on Carnival. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Illness, running out of food staples, to misinformation provided by the crew-it all happened! The only redeeming quality was the room stewards and wait staff, on the 2nd and 3rd leg. The first leg's wait staff was rude,, insulting and incompetent. Anytime a waiter replies to you, "You rich people with all your money!" One member of our table complained because the waiter never gave us a 2nd glass or water, more bread or the correct order and the waiter argued back with her. He spent his time flirting with two women at a nearby table. However, Geoffrey and Vladimir, more than made up for this on our next legs of the cruise. The cruise director was a font of misinformation on any subject you could ask him about. I had promised myself after my last disastrous cruise on the Paradise, when it was still in the Caribbean, that I would never go on a Carnival ship again. I should have kept my promise. On that cruise gangs of young toughs roamed the ship intimidating their fellow passengers-swearing at them and pushing them. I complained and was told, "they are passengers too!" I believe all Carnival needed to do was ask advice from her fellow cruise ships that had been around the Horn, and she could have avoided most of the flagrant incompetence that we experienced. I love cruising, but never again on Carnival, not the fun ship but the dumb ship!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
WOW what a wonderful experience. We were 49 days on The Carnival Splendor from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco around Cape Horn. I would turn around and do it all again today if I could. Carnival truly out did herself. If Carnival ever ... Read More
WOW what a wonderful experience. We were 49 days on The Carnival Splendor from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco around Cape Horn. I would turn around and do it all again today if I could. Carnival truly out did herself. If Carnival ever offers it again, I will be at the front of the line to book my ticket. * PRE-CRUISE HOTEL * We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before sailing and stayed at a Comfort Inn near the air port. We found it by chatting with follow cruisers on Cruise Critic. It was the lowest cost we could find. The hotel was really set up for cruisers. They had a cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs at dinner time. There was a continental breakfast in the morning. It was clean, had free WiFi and served our purpose well. The hotel was full of cruisers. On Saturday morning it looked like chaos but everyone got to the ship on time. About 200 people were waiting for a ride to the cruise port to board a ship. We met some people from Cruise Critic. We recognized them from their pictures posted on the roll call. * EMBARKATION: * Embarkation was a fairly long process and should not have taken so long. It took us two hours in line to get to our room. We arrived at The Carnival Splendor at noon and were in our room at 2:00. We are Platinum so we avoided the lines inside the terminal but waited about an hour and a half outside. Those who were not Platinum took closer to three hours to get to their rooms. The ones who arrived earlier went right in. About a thousand passengers and crew were delayed from boarding from about 2:30 pm until 8:00 pm because of a security alert. The port was closed and those 1000 waited in Terminal 21 until the Port Authorities reopened the port and allowed boarding to continue. It was after 10:00 pm before the last one was on board. They finally started to board the ship at about 8:00. They had spent 5 hours in an open terminal building with almost no food and limited water. Room service from the Carnival Freedom did deliver sandwiches, fruit and drinks to the terminal but passengers rushed the food taking much more than a share for one. Some people got none. It turns out that there was a package of paper tied together with wire that set it all off. We were glad we had made it on board to enjoy a pleasant evening. * THE SHIP: * So much has been written about the decor of the ship and all of it is true. It is pink. I found the decor entertaining and beautiful. It does take a little exploration to find the easiest ways from one place to the other but after a week or so we could find our way around easily. The ship is big. To walk from one end to the other is a real walk. We are in better shape now than before the cruise and my knee does not hurt as bad as it did before. Exercise is a good thing. I have never been a fan of the design placement of the dining rooms when there is no way through the ship but to go through the dinning room. We had our table changed from the Gold Pearl to the Black Pearl and found it much more convenient. The cover over the pool was wonderful. People were in the pool as we traveled through sleet and rain. We were able to sit out and watch movies under the stars even when it was cold and very windy outside. The water in the pool was sea water but heated to a very comfortable temperature and the hot tubs not much warmer. This is the only cruise out of 37 that I have been on with heated water in the pool! We could have used a larger library. This one was very small. It was crowded with 10 people. The ship would also benefit from another large area that opened to the sea. The Lido was the only place with lots of windows and light. It got crowded on the sea day afternoons with people reading and playing games and it was hard to find a table at which to eat. * THE CABIN: * We were in a starboard balcony cabin. 185 sq ft. There was more than ample room. For some reason we were in a handicapped room on the first leg. The bathroom was HUGE but the room a little smaller. We changed cabins each leg of the three cruises. It was cheaper for us that way. The move was easy. We just packed bags, left them in our room, went ashore and the cabin steward moved it all for us. Each cabin was the same and perfect. There was plenty of room for us and all our "stuff." * THE FOOD: * We ate dinner in the Black Pearl on all but a few nights. The lobster, fillet, lamb and pork chops were delicious. I had shrimp cocktail about half the nights. I liked everything I ate! Well maybe not the lobster bisque.... but then I didn't eat it. Our table mate had a special order of peas and carrots each night. That looked good too. What I found myself wanting was "just plain" food. So one night I just had plain baked potato and t-bone steak. Ahhh for one now. We ate breakfast and lunch mostly on Lido. We especially liked the omelet station in the morning. We only ate breakfast in the Gold Pearl twice. My husband preferred the Lido. The egg Benedict I had in the Gold Pearl one morning was like rubber. I liked to see my eggs cooked at the omelet station. They were always perfect and because I ordered them over easy.... I knew they were "real" eggs. At lunch we rotated between the Mongolian BBQ stir fry, sandwich station, Indian, hamburger and salad bars. They were all delicious. I didn't really care for the pizza and am not a big fan of most of the desserts. I could eat the Ruben everyday.... and almost did. Perfect with a cold beer after a hot day of sight seeing. I didn't care for a lot of the offerings on the Lido buffet. The great thing about the buffet is that if you don't like it don't eat it. Get something else. Sometimes I did. * OUR FELLOW PASSENGERS: * We were the average aged passenger. I am 62 and my husband 65. We may have been on the younger side of average. Most had cruised many times before. There were only a handful of children. For the most part everyone was a delight to travel with. We met wonderful people we will always remember. Some though were very grumpy and miserable. They complained about everything. They started complaining even before they got to the terminal. It was like they were embarrassed to be sailing Carnival. Several conversations started, "I have never been on Carnival before..... I know it can't meet up to the standards of (insert cruise line). The complaining continued through out the cruise. Any little glitch was another reason to complain. They really got upset when their needs were not put before everyone else. There were 3000 passengers on board. Those who had an open mind left as Carnival converts. * THE VIRUS: * Someone brought the cold virus on The Carnival Splendor and almost everyone I met was affected with the cough. We lined up at the drug stores in port and shopped in broken Spanish and by hand signals for antihistamines and cough syrup. The virus spread quickly as people would cough without covering their mouth or cough in their hands and then touch serving pieces. When in the public rooms someone was always coughing. I was sick for five weeks. Some managed to escape the virus altogether. * THE SERVICE: * We received the best table service I have ever had in my 37 cruises. We had the same waitress all three legs. I gave her my email before I left the ship and now we are friends on Facebook. We had different cabin stewards each leg. Each was good. While I found the one on the middle a little less friendly than the other two, she was just as efficient as the others. She may have even kept the cabin cleaner than the others but she refused to enter the cabin if we were in it or on the balcony.... not even to fill the ice bucket. The other two rank right up there on the top of my list as best ever. The servers in the Lido were even friendly. The ones we frequented began to anticipate our needs. The few times we went to Guest Services they were quick, friendly and efficient. At least after they realized we weren't going to bless they out. Some of the things I heard other passengers say amazed me. Where the pursers got the patience to deal with them I don't know. Anytime anyone saw us about the ship they always spoke. * THE PORTS: * We took a lot of Carnival Shore Excursions. The were well planned and offered a variety of choices. I always felt safe, learned a lot and had a wonderful time. We never worried about getting back to the ship on time. We also went with a couple of Cruise Critic groups on private tours. The private tours that our Cruise Critic friends planned were cheaper and just as good as those arranged by Carnival. I liked them because we were with friends. .....Dominica: We arrived at Dominica about noon. The place we docked was in a container dock and not the cruise dock in town. Having been to Dominica many times before, we decided to just walk around the little market the locals had set up. Jack bought some local HOT sauce and I, a carved fish. It was really hot and started to rain as we walked back to the ship. There was a beautiful rainbow. I guess we sound like real homebodies but I really did intend to go to the beach on Barbados. Instead, after getting up at noon and having lunch on Lido, we made a quick trip to shore to use the Internet. The Internet Cafe has been replaced by a machine that disperses cards with a login ID and password. You can use those codes in either a laptop or one of the PCs in a kiosk. The cost was $5.00 for 30 minutes compared to .75 a minute on the ship. So we paid our five bucks and spent 30 minutes checking email, banking and looking at facebook. We were soooooo hot by then that instead of walking a mile or so to the beach, we went back to the air conditioning in the ship. .....Barbados: We spent our day in Barbados in the beautiful sunshine in the pool on the ship. The wonderful thing about staying on board was that most people were ashore and we had the ship to ourselves. .....Fortaleza: Think any Mexican industrial town and put an oil refinery and a container port beside it and you have pretty much got Fortaleza. They do have some beaches, but they have rusty looking sand and silty green water - not exactly five star. The highlight of the day was the drink of cashew pod juice we had at the H Stern jewelry store during a shopping stop on the bus tour. The temperature in town was probably in the low 90s with a nice breeze from the east. Fortaleza is located just 3° 35' below the Equator. The word fortaleza is Portuguese for fortress. The city is one of Brazil's largest cities and is the state capitol of the state of Ceara. There are about 2,400,000 people. We visited the Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown, the Dragao do Mar Cultural Center, the beach, Central Market, the English Bridge and H Stern jewelry store located in a high end hotel. It was a nice ride around town on a Sunday morning on the ship's excursion. Almost everything was closed and the traffic was light. The main cathedral does not have candles because the poor people took them home to use as light, so they quit doing candles. The building was started in 1938 and it wasn't finished in the 1970s. The Pope announced that he was going to visit Fortaleza, so the city put a surcharge on the public water bills to pay for finishing the cathedral before the Pope arrived. I think they put it on the water bill because that is a bill everybody has to pay, like it or not. They can use candles for light and charcoal for cooking, but they do have to have the water. At the central market I bought a mango slushie. It took a while for me to get it. One of the tour guides was passing orders for the folks on her bus to the guy on the machine and bypassing those of us in line. I told her I was in line, so she had me move in front of her, but then she was shouting her orders over my shoulder. She was going to be sure to take care of her bus passengers and to heck with the rest of us. Working for tips, I think. Fortunately I had a 5 Rial bill with me, so when he put down a mango slushie that the guide had ordered, I handed him the money and grabbed the drink. Now I have the 1 rial coin that I got in change. The mango slushie was very good and much needed at that moment. The price for a beer on the English Bridge beach pier was 2.50 rials which is about 1 dollar. The mango slushie at 4 rials was about $1.75. These are real prices because this is not really a tourist town. In Portugese, they do not pronounce the R like we do; it is more of a strong harsh H sound. The money is the Rial, which is pronounced "Hey Oh" with maybe just a little L sound on the end. We are now going to our next port stop in Recife, which they pronounce as "hesif" with maybe a little bit of an "ay" sound on the end. .....Recife: Recife is a big city. We didn't see it except from a distance. The skyscrapers lined up along the shoreline make it look, from a distance, like Miami. We didn't want to see another city just like all the others, so we took the ship's tour to Itamarca Island to see manatees and mangroves and do a beach break. Both of us were exhausted and sun burned after our day on Itamaraca Island near Recife Brazil. It took us about an hour on the bus to get there from the ship and we had six hours to enjoy a very short catamaran ride, a quick glance at the mangroves, a long time on the beach, then walk through Fort Orange and the Manatee Center. On our ride home we drove through a smaller city to see some Colonial buildings. The beach was fun and the water relaxing. At the beach we sat at a beach bar with tables in the sand, each one with its own palapa for shade, and enjoyed drinks of Caipirinha and beer. In Mexico, palapas are thatched with leaves from the fan palm. Here they use a long stemmed beach grass that may be related to sea oats. At first we thought we would order lunch, but $20.00 a plate was astonishingly overpriced for what it was. I had packed some croissants and cheese from the breakfast bar on the ship so we decided to have those instead. One of the many vendors at the beach was walking around with a gallon can full of burning charcoal hanging from a wire so he would swing like a censure to get the coals red hot, and a Tupperware container of cheese. He would cook big thick slices of a hard white cheese over the charcoal until it was brown and leathery on the outside looking like the second side of a well done pancake. He would then skewer the cheese like a popsicle and hand it to you hot and ready to eat. We both had one of those for about $2.00 each. The cheese, about the consistency and color of very firm tofu, was absolutely delicious, and the slightly salty taste was perfect with the croissant and beer. My husband stayed under the protection of the palapa at the bar while I spent a lot of time in the water. It was sooooooo relaxing. The water temperature would change from warm to cold depending on where I was. I had on a hat so my face did not burn from the sun. My shoulders and back were not shaded so they are still sore. I do not know how DH got so sunburned on his face???? He was in the shade all the time while on the beach but his face got as red as my back. He says it was from the reflection off the sand and water. We traveled to and from the beach island on a catamaran. It took us alongside the mangroves and past local fishermen. The catamaran was loud with people and music so we didn't see many birds or wildlife as I had hoped. There was a small Dutch fort called Fort Orange there on Itamarca Island across from the beach island so we got off the catamaran we walked over to see it. The small 17th century fortress was originally build by the Dutch - that is why it is called Fort Orange for William of Orange - and later taken by the Portuguese when they ran the Dutch out (the Dutch then went to buy Manhattan from the Indians says the tour guide). We saw the cannons, Dutch maps and archaeological pieces. This was NOT my favorite part of the day........ and it was 40° C (104° F) in the shade while we were out walking through the sand with the sun beating down on us. Brutal. Could have been a "survivors in the desert" movie. I was really worried about some of the older members of the group getting heat stroke. (Older, ah yes, we are back in the younger demographic on this cruise. I am 62 and DH 65) Well, we walked from the fort across the island to the IBAMA Center for the Protection of the West Indian Manatee which is Peixe-boi in Portugese, pronounced "pehshee boy". The research center rescues injured and orphaned manatees and then reintroduces them back into the wild. We saw only three manatee in residence but it was a fun stop with big shade trees. A small pack of tiny monkeys was running all around. The looked sorta like teddy bears and were like big squirrels in size and the way they ran up the trees. Some of the trees growing there that have a purple fruit that looks like a big ripe olive. I think it is related to the mango because the tree looks just like a mango tree and the fruit has this huge seed in it. The taste of the fruit was pleasant, but much too acid. It felt like the juice was taking the enamel off your teeth. The guide said they are really good when ripe. Maybe the one I ate wasn't ripe? It looked ripe. .....Salvador: We took the ship's "Easy Salvador" tour in Salvador. Get on the bus and ride around, take pictures out the window. That was all we wanted to do because we were still tired from the last port. We saw some churches and a fort and some buildings and favelas. The favelas, or slums, are not what I expected. They are multi-story buildings made of the same clay tile bricks that most small buildings are made of. They have electricity and running water but NO streets. They hand carry everything (I mean everything - no streets) in narrow lanes with lots and lots of stair steps. They sort of remind me of the pueblos of the Navajos or Hopi in Arizona. After the tour I needed to get some Rials ("Hay eyes" you remember the Portugese pronunciation) so I went to the bank. Since I don't speak Portugese and Brazilians don't speak anything but Portugese, not Spanish, not English, it took a while to figure out that the banks don't do currency exchange or deal with credit cards. I tried the ATMs but these wouldn't take either of my cards. After trying 4 banks and a half dozen ATMs, I found an informal change operation that was operated by a local tour guide. I only got 2 Rials for a dollar, but I had to have the Rials for the tours in Rio on our next stop. 2.30 is the official rate, but the informal ones use 2.00 for selling and 2.75 for buying. After was looking for Rials, we waited in line for an hour to use the cheap dockside internet at $4 per hour, as opposed to 75 cents a minute on the ship. In Recife, one internet cafe was 1 Rial per hour. .....Rio De Janeiro: The best I can do on the Portugese pronunciation is "He owe dezhan eye". Back in Recife, they told us that the rainy season in Rio ends just in time for Carnival. It was cloudy and raining all day. It wasn't too bad, but the views from the top of Sugarloaf and Corcovado were mostly of clouds. We were wearing plastic ponchos and looked sopping wet all day. We got up at 5 AM to watch while the ship was coming into the harbor. It was a fairly scenic arrival in the morning twilight with the big rocks sticking up and the lights along the beaches. We were excited about our private tour with a group from Cruise Critic. That it was a little wet and rainy all day didn't stop the preparations for Carnival. The street pre-parade that we saw was reported on CNN. It was a large college party with lots of beer, moving down the street with some in costume. Rio is a pretty city and interesting. The mountain ridges and bay cuts it up into much smaller zones with lots of green space in between. The zones we saw were clean, modern, and well maintained, with parks and lakes and public areas. I am sure that there are other parts we didn't see. They say that the crime problem is "much better now". They do not say there is little or no crime. The warnings about wearing jewelry and carrying valuables were restated frequently. The tour went first to Sugarloaf. It takes two cable cars to get to the top. You get a great view of the whole area. Then we went to the Sambadrome, the judging area for the carnival parade entrants. It seems to work like the Crewes of Mardi Gras in New Orleans: there are groups, called samba schools, that run different parts of it. Joining a samba school is neither cheap nor easy and there are about 1,200 members in each group. If I understood correctly, there are 174 samba schools. There is a theme and a story to each presentation. They are judged and there is a big money prize to the winning samba school. Next was the modern cathedral. It is a fascinating structure that looks like a big flat topped octagonal pyramid. One person accurately described it as looking like an "upside down ice cream cone". It is really not that impressive from the outside, but when you go inside, it is an "oh, wow" moment. To continue with the ice cream cone analogy, the pyramid is a huge hollow shell with four sides being louvered to allow ventilation and the other four sides are immense stained glass windows from floor to the horizontal clear glass ceiling. They are maybe 150 feet tall and 30 feet wide each. It is hard for pictures to do it justice. We walked through the colonial district, looking at old buildings and statues. We saw Carmen Miranda's childhood home, where the family ran a restaurant, living on the third floor, the cooking area in the second floor, and customer tables on the first floor. After that there was a picturesque area with an old house like Neuschanstein castle in miniature and some really old street trolley cars still running on overhead electric wires. Quaint. Corcovado mountain was next. We drove up to the parking lot, rode a park van up to the elevator level, rode the elevator up to the escalators that didn't work. From there it was 80 stair steps up to the overlook around the base of the huge statue of Christ. More rain and fog cutting the visibility. If you waited a few minutes, you could get a picture as a gap in the cloud came by. While waiting for our group to assemble, we had an abacaixe smoothie for R 4.50. Abacaixe is pineapple and is pronounced "Abba caizhee." They are using a very white type of pineapple that is not very sweet. At supper, I ordered abacaixe sherbet from our Brazilian waitress. Apparently I got it right. Then we headed for Ipanema to see the "Girl From Ipanema" who is now about 100. Ipanema is not just the beach, but is the most expensive residential district in Rio. The tour guide said he would live in the Ipanema-Copacabana-Leblon area if he could afford it. Me too. This was the area where we stopped to watch the pre-parade party and found several streets blocked off. These parties were breaking out all over town. There were streets officially blocked and others blocked by people and others blocked by traffic confused by the other blockages. Trying to get from A to B was getting really tricky. It was now getting late. We stopped to buy souvenirs and were supposed to continue on to the beach. Some of the group were worried about getting trapped in the parade traffic problems and missing the boat. That would have been a very big and expensive problem. Despite the risk, the other half were absolutely determined to go to the beach and get a caipirinha - just so they could say "been there, done that." Fortunately there were two vans, so the group split. We went with the Go Back bunch. We got on the ship just 15 minutes before final boarding time. The others got back 15 minutes later. They did actually get a drink on the beach. Other tours did get trapped. One with about 80 passengers from Legendary Journeys - who have about one third of the passengers on the boat - got back 2 hours late. Normally, if you are not back on time, you get left behind. I think they might have held the boat for Legendary, but not for a small private group like ours. However, a crew tour also got trapped. They also got back 2 hours late. Rumor has it that the captain was on that tour, so we couldn't leave without him. .....Buenos Aires, Argentina: We took a private tour of the city the morning we arrived. Went to the Tango Show that night with a group from Cruise Critic and wandered around on our own the next day. There are 3 million in the city and ten million more in the suburbs. It seems to have all the good parts of European cities. They didn't really show us the bad parts. Except for one slum. It was built out of the same tile blocks as the favelas in Brazil. These were built under a highway overpass and were not as extensive as the hilltop ones in Rio. I liked likes Buenos Aires better than Rio. My husband liked Rio better. BA is on the world's biggest estuary at the outlet of the Rio de la Plata, which is an extensive river system. The water is a mottled mix of river and ocean water. The color of the water is coffee and cream, but it has an interesting pinkish tinge. It is not repulsive, but it does not invite swimming. The current government is a modern Peronist variety. The president is Christina Fernandez de Kirchner. Our tour guide was an anti-Peronist, so he thinks the whole Evita thing is vastly overblown: "She would be completely forgotten, except for Lloyd-Webber." Of course, we heard "Don't cry for me, Argentina" about three times during the day. It was the big finale at the tango show. We went to a tango show and dinner at La Ventana, Barra de Tango, in downtown. The show started at 8:00 and dinner was at 10:00. The show has a lot of tango, but the parts we liked best were the Bandoneon player (It is not an accordion, it is a bandoneon. They are different.) and the 12 string ukelele that makes "Andean" music. I like Andean music and the ukelele player was very good. Wine was served with dinner. It was a Malbec. The day tour guide said Malbec is the best of Argentine wine, even though the name means "made bad." The table next to us didn't drink theirs, so they gave it to me. I got a cork from the waiter and recorked it to take back to the boat. I thought somebody in security would not allow it, but I went right through with nobody batting an eye. The tango started in the bars and back rooms in La Boca, the old port district. The port has been moved twice since then. The first old port, La Boca, has been turned into a Disney style tourist attraction. The other abandoned port, Puerto Madero, was turned over to real estate developers who have made a very upscale commercial and residential district out of it. La Boca was interesting. The buildings are mostly made out of corrugated metal painted garish colors. The windows are covered with louvered shutters. Another of the pictures of the day is the Boca Babe (my name for her. The locals probably use another name). She was sitting on a second floor balcony just watching the world go by. This place is expensive. Prices seem to be on a par with New York, but the minimum wage is about $15 per day, if I understood it right. Unemployment is severe. The tour guide said there are lots of poor people and they come out at night hunting for ..........anything of value. Maybe that is why there are so many dogs here - big dogs. To hire a dog walker costs $90 per month per dog. The dog walkers seem to get up a pack of about ten and walk them for 5 hours a day through the extensive park system in town. They look like Cesar Milan on his TV show leading a pack around. Small dogs, like you see in Miami, were rarely seen. All these Porteños (that is what they call residents of Buenos Aires) living in small apartments with big dogs really do need dog walkers. Two days in Buenos Aires was not enough. .....Montevideo, Uruguay: The name, so said the tour guide, came from a notation on a nautical chart back in the 1500s: Monte VI de O(este), the sixth hill from the west. The temperature was 82, but it seemed like 102 or more. It feels like Arizona in the middle of August. We came into the port fairly early. Looming out of the twilight was a big building that looks like the sail shaped hotel in Dubai. The captain did a pretty good job of parallel parking into a very tight spot. The people on deck were holding their breath. He had only about a foot left on each end of his parking place. After breakfast, we got our tour assignments: we are on bus #5, a 12 passenger Mercedes van. This was a private tour arranged by our Cruise Critic friends. It was to be an all day tour with a stop at a local place for lunch. Our first stop was one of the city squares. There was a McDonalds and a Burger King and a money exchange shop. For $2, I got 45 pesos. Effectively a peso is a nickel. Gas costs about $5 a gallon, and the minimum wage is about $2.50 an hour. There were a couple of cops in the square with automatic weapons. They were guarding a bank shipment unloading at the bank on the square. Jack asked them what kind of guns they were. They are an American design made locally. He did not get the name. These people talk really fast, person to person. They seem to talk more clearly and slowly on the cellphones. I could understand most of what the guide said into her phone, but when she was talking to the driver, almost nothing. We drove down to the beach at 10:30 AM on a Thursday. The beach was fairly busy and was very nice. We like this town best of all so far as a place to live in. We went through the high priced condo district to the higher priced house district and then to the mansion district. The driver said the mansions cost up to a million. We saw the presidents house and Rev. Sun Myung Moon's house. Our guide said that she did not like Rev. Moon. We said that we don't either. Uruguay has one of the best standard of living in all South America. Most of the way, if I had closed my eyes and opened them, I could have been in the States. We stopped at parks and churches and took lots of pictures. One of the longest stops was at the Holocaust Memorial. It was at a beautiful spot on the beach. The locals drink a tea called Mate. Everyone carries their tea with them from home. It isn't sold in the cafe..... you bring your tea cup filled with mate leaves from home with a thermos of hot water. You keep adding hot water all day. We took pictures of cups and "sipper straws" especially for the tea. I took a picture of the cups. They also had boxes of tea for sale with the cups. We had had Mate before so we passed on the tea. You can buy it in a 5 lb. Bag at Bi-Lo. Finally lunch... Lunch was not included in the price. The guide took us to a Winery. It was a beautiful place surrounded by fields of sheep grazing and vineyards. It was very pricey though and we had only about 60.00 in cash with us. We ordered one appetizer and a steak entrEe to share and passed up the bottled water and wine. We were surprised when the check came to see a charge of $9.00 for use of the cutlery and another $5.00 for two bottled waters. The guide said that the charge for using the knives and forks was usual... but we disputed the water and $5.00 was deducted from the bill. I think they confused us with someone else who did have bottled water. The excitement for the day was when we tried to leave the Winery. We were way out from town and our ship and it was getting close to time to be back on board. All 12 of us climbed back in the van and were ready to go. It wouldn't start........ the battery was dead. The driver messed with it for awhile as we all got a little anxious ..... The guide called for back up...... we got out of the van and waited in a small patch of shade in the 100 degree sun. We entertained ourselves by taking pictures of each other and the group. The driver recruited some winery workers to give him a push start. It worked and we all piled back in the van at about the same time the back up van arrived. We got out of the first van and into the backup van and back to the ship just on time. The ship sailed 3 hours late. .....Puerto Madryn: Whatever I expected, this wasn't it. I didn't expect Puerto Madryn to be a modern boom town a lot like Gillette Wyoming. I didn't expect Patagonia to be a flat, dusty, treeless, sagebrush desert like parts of Wyoming or Colorado or Arizona. I didn't expect llamas to be like antelope without horns. I didn't expect penguins to be prairie dogs in disguise. But that's how it is. I felt right at home. We took a ship's excursion. We rode in a 50 person bus 2.5 hours to reach the Protected National Area Punta Tomba. We were in the first class section of the bus which is 3 across rather than 4. It was VERY comfortable and we slept most of the way there. Once we arrived we were surrounded by 400000 Magellan penguins. It is the largest penguin rookery of its kind in the world. We walked among the birds for about 2 hours. The chicks and one parent were home. The other parent out getting fish or down by the ocean. Some of the chicks were still completely covered with down. Others had started to get their feathers. They were beautiful. .....Ushuaia: Tierra del Fuego is an island. Originally, Tierra del Fuego was used as a prison like Devil's Island. Escape was considered impossible because of the cold and remoteness and the wind. The winds are fierce from the west, so most of the trees are bent to the east. They are called "flag trees." The water was like glass in the morning when we arrived, no wind at all and nicely cool. We took a ships tour by bus through the Lapatia National Park and then got on a catamaran for a ride down the Beagle Channel to see islands covered with sea lions and cormorants. The boats got right up next to the islands. There were too many sealions and birds to even start to count. The scenery was spectacular - alpine forest and sharp mountains with treeline about halfway up at 1800 feet elevation. There was no snow, but you could see lots of small glaciers. They imported some Canadian beavers about 50 years ago. They were going to raise them for fur, but the weather here is not cold enough for the beavers to develop good fur pelts, so they turned them loose. They have no natural enemies here. Now there are 200,000 of them that are doing major damage to the forest. Some of our best pictures were of the beaver ponds. Either the birds or the Sea lions stink. I mean really stink. Every time the catamaran got downwind of a sea lion/bird island, the stench would knock you over. The early inhabitants here, dated to 4,600 years ago, went naked except for a greasy coating of sea lion fat and a cape made of sea lion leather. It made them waterproof for collecting mussels growing in the shallows and it blocked the wind chill effect. Our real Cape Horn experience continued. The winds came up in the afternoon. They delayed our departure by 8 hours because of high winds. Our latitude at 52° 48' South. It was 9 pm and it still light enough to read outside. I bought a black t-shirt that says "Ushuaia, Fin del Mundo." It seems appropriate somehow. .....Cruising: As compensation for missing Punta Arena, they took us to see a couple of glaciers, the Skua and the Pio XI. Here is what happened back in Ushuaia: The ship was supposed to leave at 3:00pm, but it did not. As we were watching over the rail in very pleasant conditions, an announcement was made that the winds in the channel were too high for safe passage, so they were going to wait for the winds to slow. At 9:00 pm they announced that the stop in Punta Arenas was canceled because we would arrive too late and the weather forecast was very bad. At 9:20, I stepped out on the balcony and saw an ambulance and some cars at the gangway. Some passengers got into the cars with their luggage and the whole group of ambulance and cars drove back toward town at slow speed with flashing lights. Immediately, we cast off and went down the channel at 14 knots, which is much slower than the regular cruising speed of 21 knots. The ship did go to Punta Arenas and arrived about noon in lovely weather. That was "too late" to allow passengers ashore. It was a tender port and we were scheduled to leave at 3:30 pm. It would have taken until 2:00 to get everyone off the ship and another two hours to get everyone back on.. Some ships business was conducted - entry permission, exchange of performers, and the return of a ship's photographer who went cross country from Buenos Aires taking video, perhaps for future commercials. Then we headed down the Strait of Magellan toward our next stop. We were compensated $20.00 each for the lost port call. Instead of Punta Arenas we cruised the fjords and looked at glaciers and stunning scenery. We had planned another tour to see penguins in Punta Arenas, but we already saw LOTS of penguins at Puerto Madryn. We probably enjoyed the sightseeing more than if we had made our port stop. The weather was perfect at the Skua Glacier but so foggy at the Pius the 11 that no pictures turned out very well. At supper the ship suddenly began to list quite sharply. I think about 10 degrees, maybe more. Ten degrees is a lot. Things were falling everywhere. We had been hit by a sudden 70 knot wind coming at us sideways down one of the glacial valleys. It was exciting, but it as over very soon. During the night a solid sheet of white spray came blasting by the balcony. We were on the 9th deck and the bow splash reached all the way up. Wow. The winds were 90 MPH that night. That was happening as we came out of the channel into the open ocean. The plan was to sail up to Puerto Montt by going on the outside through the ocean rather than through the fjords. The 90 mph wind changed their minds. We made an abrupt right turn and found a protected narrow channel that goes a fairly long way, but not all the way. There is a peninsula that blocks the route. We will still have to come out into the open ocean to get north to Puerto Montt. We been rocked and rolled all night and day. There were a whole bunch of small low pressure systems lined up like a string of little hurricanes. Inside them, the wind and waves were terrible. In between, the weather was OK. .....Puerto Montt: Puerto Montt was founded by the Germans in 1853 and is the capital of The Southern Lake District. The population is 155000 people. What a fun port for me. We spent the day at a horse ranch. After tendering to shore we were met by our guide Orlando. He was excellent and had arranged a marvelous day for us. We were on a Carnival Shore excursion with about 30 others. First we rode through Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Frutillar. We stopped at the Farmacia in Puerta Varas and stocked up on Aspirin, Sudafed and Dr Moms. Then we shopped in the local artisan market. The alpaca items were tempting.... but would have been "moth bait" in SC. I took pictures but made no purchases. The view of Lake Liaguihue was nice .... but we were under fog and clouds all day and never saw the whole of the volcanoes. It was just 60F but the 98% humidity made it feel more like 80.... or maybe I had a fever.... who knows??? The town of roses had a nice aroma. When we arrived at Fundo Olguita we were treated as guests at the ranch. We toured the stables for the stallions. There were about 20 horses in the stud barn and about twice that many mares in the mare barn. We only saw a few out in the pastures, but with 750 hectares, the mares and colts were somewhere. The horses were all purebred Chilean horses. The were small and stocky. At only about 14 hands they had short legs and muscular bodies. They are bred for the rodeo and working on ranches. They took us to an open room in the barn where we met the huasos and were shown the riders dress and tack for the horses. Then we were offered wine and empanadas and entertained by children in tradition dress doing traditional dances. The barn dogs were friendly and the retired "trainer bull" roamed free. Next to the arena for riding skills demonstration and a taste of the Chilean Rodeo. We watched as the riders demonstrated circles and figure eights and walking sideways. Then they brought the bull in and the two riders rode along side of the bull around the ring. Near the end of the circle the bull was rammed up against the rail. In the old days this is how they would stop the cattle for branding. This is now an event in the rodeo. Then they ran a barrel race. A little different from what we see in the states in that there were four barrels not just three. During the rodeo we were served MORE wine and two types of appetizers. Before dinner the children dancers came down to the arena and offered to teach us to do the dances. They were dances that mimic movements in the rodeo called the cueca. We needed to work off some of the wine and food before EATING MORE. Dinner was grilled steak and potatoes with sopapillas and vegetables and, you guessed it, more wine. Dessert was a delicious fruit plate, STRONG coffee and mint or chamomile liquor. If you get a chance to have some chamomile liquor, pass that up. Oh, yeah, there was a pisco sour in there somewhere, too. Even though Pisco is a town in Peru, Pisco sour is the national drink of both Peru and Chile. As we were leaving the owner called us back for one last toast. He had just received word that his son had qualified for the National Finals Rodeo!!! He was very proud and excited. We had a wonderful day. .....Viña Del Mar and Valparaiso: We took a ships bus tour of both towns. I would do something different next time. I was a little bored on this one. We went to Viña first. We knew we were there when the flower clock told us so. It was 9 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday morning and not much was happening. After a driving tour to see the expensive real estate and the condos with their own "funiculars" we went to the Easter Island museum, and then on to Valpo. Valpo is a navy town. I thought Valpo was more interesting than Viña. There is something interesting about unusual old places. Victorian houses, hillsides, ooooold funiculars, fire departments named after ethnic groups (Der Fueurwehr, for example), viewpoints and little cafes. I liked it. We left the ship at 7:00 am and they had already started loading food and drinks. They finished at 8:00 pm then we departed. We must have been running low on groceries..... you guess?? .....Arica: We got there after all. The captain ran full speed all night and we arrived at noon, only eight hours late. All of the short tours ran on delay. Our long tour was canceled, so we bought a ship's city tour. The tour went around the town where we saw a church and the customs house that were designed by Eiffel, the same Eiffel who did the Eiffel tower. The rest of the town was interesting too. We were in the Atacama Desert where it didn't rain but once in 500 years. It was dry. There are no bushes on the hills. The only plants are in the dry river bottoms where there is some underground water. The population gets water from a pipe from a long way away. Water is expensive. Still, they plant a lot of plants and trees - Arizona kinds of things like oleanders, palms, and Palo Verde and even grass. Bougainvilla grows very well here and it is lovely. Some water used to flow from a spring up the hill aways. They channeled the stream into a "water feature," ponds and waterfalls and such, about half a block wide running down the whole length of the town. It was probably lovely until the spring dried up. Now it is a public area with meeting spaces and walking paths. It is still pretty nice, considering. Another water feature still exists and is really cool. The main crop seems to be olives, which they have been growing here since 1530, only 40 years after Columbus. They also grow tomatoes and other vegetables. At the museum there was an old olive grinder and press. The grinder was a single wheel "arrastre," a big vertical stone mill wheel turned in a basin by a mule. The olives were ground to a mush and then taken to the press. The beam on the press was about 40 feet long and 2 feet thick - an entire tree. The mush was pressed and the oil comes out. That it the "first cold press," then they add hot water and go at it again repeatedly, each batch getting poorer in quality. When the hot water quits working, they nowadays use solvent. There is a big white spot on the hillside. Four tour guides gave four answers as to what it was: Diatomite, nitrate, salt, or lime. Take your pick or provide your own. We saw the "geoglyphs." These are placements of stone on the east facing hillsides in the shape of men, llamas, snakes, etc. They think they are over 4,000 years old. We had our picture taken with a llama and his owner and got a cold drink at the stop to view the hillside. The mummies are over 5,000 years old. That is older than the Egyptian mummies. There were a couple on display in the museum. Other sites here are dated at 15,000 years. That plays havoc with the previous single land bridge crossing theory of populating America. The people here are more of Peruvian and Bolivian ancestry, so they are shorter and darker than Chileans from further south. Actually this area was Peru and Bolivia until a war in 1880 that was won by Chile. The peace settlement in 1929 established the owner as Chile. Peru and Bolivia still are not happy about it, particularly Bolivia, which lost its access to the sea. Chile maintains 30,000 troops here in Arica just in case the Peruvians or Bolivians want to try to get it back. Altogether I really liked this town. .....Lima: Lima is another big city. Latest count is 10 million, ranging from super rich to super poor. We took a ship shore excursion. After a drive through Lima we visited the National Museum of Anthropology and Archeology. Now I enjoyed the museum, but how many pots and mummies can you really look at? The museum was in a lovely setting with lots of green all around. Lima, like Arica, is desert. We had a little time when we were leaving and sat on a bench in the garden. One of the police came over and started a conversation with us. He was about 25 and saw a time to practice his English. Many in Peru are studying English as a way to get ahead. With only a years study this young man was on his way to fluency. He and everyone we met were warm and friendly. The hour and ½ drive down the pacific coast was cool. We saw the beaches and several areas of Lima on our way to the Pachacamac Ruins. I decided that once you have been to Teotihuacan near Mexico City, all the rest are just ruins. Anyway, I made it all the way up to the top of the pyramid and enjoyed the view. You could see the sea, the desert and Lima from the top. The city is inching its way out more and more as the city grows. The desert is brown and dusty. The ruins, dating back to 700 A.D. consist of adobe buildings and temples. The highlight was seeing the Peruvian hairless dog outside the small snack shop and museum. I skipped the museum and visited with the dog instead. Finally, we were on our way to the Tres Cañas ranch to see the Peruvian Paso. We were met at the hacienda with a Pisco Sour and some snacks of deep-fried yucca and dip. We wandered around the gardens and stables as we waited for lunch to be ready. The horses were pretty. They had big eyes and a dished face like the Arabian. I made friends with a gray mare and her month old filly. She was the souvenir I wanted to take home but my husband said, "No." Lunch started with wine and bread. Then we were offered water, soda, beer and more wine. They had cooked potatoes, beans and tamales in a fire pit (earthen oven). DH thought his tamale was the best thing on the plate. There was also chicken, pork and beef. Dessert was some sort of jelly custard. And then the horse show..... I don't know the difference between the Peruvian Paso we saw and the Paso Fino in the states. They looked the same and did the same four beat gait. There were four horses exhibited and the prettiest paso mule I've ever seen. After the show it was back to the ship. Before going in the ship, we took time to visit with the vendors lined up in the port. Ah... shopping. My favorite day. .....Manta: The museum in Manta was brand new and air conditioned. Lots of pre-Columbian artifacts but no mummies..... skulls and bones though. We only stayed about an hour!! The museum is in the former national bank building. Ecuador has converted to using the US Dollar as their national currency because inflation made theirs worthless. Somebody said they still use their coins though, probably for vending machines and small change. I don't know how they value them. We drove all around Manta on our ship's tour and out from town to a small local house where we were shown how paja toquilla is transformed into Panama Hats. Hats were there for sale but we settled on a picture of the hats instead. Jack did buy a bag of organic local coffee. It is suppose to be "award winning". The coffee is called "El Aromo." The next little town we visited was El Aromo. We saw the church and wandered around the square and found the pharmacy but it was closed for siesta. There we were on the equator in high summer and the temperature got up to 90 today. Moderate humidity, so it was really quite comfortable. This was still due to the influence of the Humboldt Current of cold water from down at Cape Horn. Inland a little, it does get very hot and they grow bananas. Manta has a huge Tuna industry. A Chinese freezer ship was parked right across from us at the pier. They off loaded fish all day from the ships freezer to trucks. The trucks then proceeded in convoy to the processing plants, accompanied by masked armed guards on every truck The tour guide said the guards are not allowed to shoot first. Before I saw how many fish were transported in one day, I had no idea how many fish we kill daily...... and this is just one port. .....Acapulco: We surprised ourselves when we decided that of all the places we have visited, Acapulco is the one to which we will surely return. The last time we were here was fifteen years ago. We loved it just as much today as before. I would like to spend a month down here - or two. We could fly into Acapulco then drive up the coast and go back to Troncones Beach, visiting other towns along the way. Acapulco's bay is beautiful. The colors are stunning. It is a lovely place. My eyes were sore from looking at the azure sea and sky. I guess that is why this has been a resort area since before the time of the Aztecs. English is widely spoken and even though set up for tourists, there is a real Mexican community too. It is just a very nice place to be. Our plan for the day was to get to Wal-Mart to stock up on cold medicines. We mentioned that plan at dinner and our tablemates decided to go with us. We met at 10 am in the lobby. After getting off the ship we stopped for pesos at the Casa de Cambio and walked to the local city bus. It was a direct ride to the end of the way to Wal-Mart. Our friends stocked up on Amoxicyllin and Cipro. The cost for the Amox was just $1 per box. At home it is at least $15. Why? We just got some Actifed and Dr Mom look-alikes. The last time we were here, we stayed at the Hyatt across the street from Wall-Mart so we walked over there after we finished our shopping. It was just as I remembered. The place was full of young people arriving for Spring Break. You could feel PARTY in the air...... Oh to be 20 again!!! We walked out around the pool and to the beach. The hotel changed hands two months ago and is now called Five Star Grand Resort. Our tablemates were ready for lunch and set out on a venture to find Red Snapper. We had just eaten so we split off from the group and set out on our own. We caught the bus back toward the ship. Got off in old town and walked awhile. We found an Internet Cafe with internet for 60 cents an hour. We went in for a while then continued our walk, stopping for a cervesa and soda along the way. Back at the ship we sat by the pool for an hour or so before dinner. It was a nice relaxed day. It was HOT though and the cool pool water felt good. .....Puerto Vallarta: We went on the ship's whale photo shoot in Puerto Vallarta. The season is from early December to March in Banderas Bay. Our trip was a little late in the season. The boat was a big hardshell inflatable, an Avon, which is like a big Zodiak. We spotted a mother and calf fairly quickly and followed them for a long time - lots of pictures of humped backs. The guide was an Aussie who called it an "oombaa-" That last is a glottal stop. There is a proper way to show it, but I don't remember now. The sound is almost like a soft cough. So "oombaa(cough)" The calf breached and I was the only one that got the picture. Actually it was pure luck. A woman jumped up in front of me, so I had to put the camera out to the side and push the button and hope. As you see, I got the picture with every drop of water in focus. Wow. The ride was rough, wet, and in the open sun the whole day. I felt like I had lost 7 rounds with a mule by the time it was over. But I got the picture. .....Long Beach: In Long Beach everybody had to get off the ship for about three hours for customs and immigration - nobody gets back on until everybody is cleared. The ship was using the foghorn all night long as we were coming in to port. The Splendor docked right behind the Queen Mary. That was some comparison. The QM is quite a bit smaller than the Splendor, but the old style elegance of the interior was said to be better. The day started cold and foggy. We were not too excited about trying to be tourists in a cold and foggy LA, but there was an aquarium fairly close by. After a late breakfast we walked over to the Queen Mary Hotel - that is what the ship is now - and caught the free shuttle to the aquarium. Long Beach has free shuttle service to many of the major tourist areas - very nice, if not all that frequent. The aquarium is not all that large, but it is very well laid out and the volunteer staff was amazing in number and quality. We got there just in time for shark feeding. Then we went to the lorikeet cage. Lorikeets are colorful parrotlike birds. Libby bought a little cup of nectar and the lorikeets went crazy to get at it. At one time she had three of them on one arm. The greedy little critters drank up all the nectar right away. Then they weren't so interested in sitting on you, fickle little devils. Walking through one of the underground viewing areas, I noticed a sea lion looking very closely through the glass at a kid's shoes. When the kid moved on, the sea lion took up looking at another kid's shoes. When that kid moved on, I stepped up and let it look at my "havaiianas" (that is the correct word for flip-flops). I took the shoe off to see if the sea lion wanted to see my foot. Not at all, it wanted the shoe, so I started moving the shoe around. The sea lion followed it like it was a magnet. I really started getting into it, moving the shoe around and round, up and down, and in circles. The sea lion was on it like it was the only thing in the world. I threw in every ballet move I could remember from Mrs. Hayden's after-school ballet class that I took way back in 3rd grade. We were covering the entire 8 ft tall and 12 ft wide window, just dancing and having a ball. After a long time, I was getting tired and I figured I was hogging the window so I stopped. A crowd of about 50 had gathered to watch. They gave us a standing ovation. OK, they were already standing, but they did clap and cheer. That was as much fun as I have ever had playing with an animal. Really really cool. We finished at the aquarium and went back to the ship. .....San Francisco: San Francisco was the end of the cruise. How depressing. At the beginning, we wondered if cabin fever from being cooped up in a ship for so long would be a problem. It wasn't. We are ready to turn around and do it all over again, right now, please. We didn't do much in SF, just headed for the hotel and checked email. It is nice to have a free and fast internet again. After a long nap it was lunch time so we went next door to the Elephant Bay restaurant which was cheaper than it looked. I got the best Pad Thai I have ever had. .....Entertainment: The entertainment on board was outstanding. The best we have experienced on any cruise. They were creative in order to keep us entertained. All sorts of activities in addition to the usual cruise activities like trivia, pool games, art auctions, Bingo (about once a week... not everyday.), games and of course the Casino. We enjoyed the entertainment in the Spectacular Spectacular Show room. The singers and dancers were superb and very energetic. The shows were repeated each of the three legs. We say them all twice. My favorite entertainment on the ship was was the show band. Excellent. Comedians, jugglers, singers and ventriloquist were the normal average sort. They were "fly in". We watched all of some acts and only part of some others. The entertainment in the bars and lounges was good too. Goose, the Cruise Director, was creative by bringing some of the house acts into the showroom for performances. The piano player in the piano bar had carpel tunnel though and had to stop playing at times. I was glad they made the piano bar smoke free. I usually can't go there because of the smoke. The naturalist Dirk was fun, approachable and interesting. The ports would never have been as much fun without having first listened to his talks. He was THE hit. He did all the shore talks for the ports too. What was so nice was that he talked about things other that the ships excursions. The talks were about the ports, not just about the excursions. * There were drawing lessons. DH went once and said it was fun. * Picture taking and Photoshop seminars given by MickeyLive. These were very worth while. * There were crafts classes. They even gave you all the materials for the crafts. Lots of people were working on needlepoint. Even the men. I wish I had gone to the classes. * There were Spanish and Portuguese classes. They were entry level but we always learned something. * The Writer's Workshop was fun. These were let by the ACD Brent. The writers or would be writers would share their writings and coach each other. * The Bridge lessons and Duplicate Bridge sessions were been well attended. * The Super Bowl party, lots of deck parties and two Ecuador crossing ceremonies were all great fun. * There were on board movies shown on the big screen by the pool and in the cabins. While we enjoyed the ones we saw, I would like to have seen a better variety of movies. We watched the same moves several times. New movies started to be shown during the last leg but US TV was back on by then so it didn't make much difference. * The Lido became a game area in the afternoon. Sometimes it was hard to find a table to sit at to eat. We usually just asked to join someone already seated. * Our Cruise Critic group met each sea day at the back pool at 4:00 pm. We went to the gathering a few times but 4:00 pm turned out to be our nap time. The first two Cruise Critic meetings were held in the lobby during the chamber music. I'm glad that time and place was changed. The people trying to hear the music could hear nothing because we were talking so. The longest we were between ports was three sea days. I really liked sitting on the balcony with my book. Sometimes concentrating on the pages was difficult. I liked sitting out there and just looking at the sea. You had to look closely but once your eyes adjust you can see all sorts of sea life: birds, whales, dolphins, sea lions and flying fish. The Sun rising and setting was another treat. I will never forget how brilliant the orange in the sky as the sun set as we were leaving Puerto Madryn and Arica. I have never before seen a sky completely orange. I was glad we paid the extra to have a balcony. * Debarkation: * Debarkation in San Francisco was quick and easy. We had been through customs in Long Beach. We sat on Lido and waited for our number to be called. It came all too quickly. It had been the best 49 days it could be. We flew home the next morning. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
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