I'm a single 62 YO guy who usually cruises solo. I chose this itinerary for several reasons: 1. It was a continuation of a trip I made w/my Mom aboard Celebrity Millennium during the '05-'06 holiday season to South America; 2. I wanted to see more of Chile, and I welcomed the opportunity to also visit Argentina, the Falklands, and Uruguay; 3. I decided to give Princess another chance after my last cruise with them to the Baltic states in the fall of '95, but something about Princess rubbed me the wrong way.
I had a two-night hotel stay at Sheraton Santiago Hotel and Convention Center, a very nice hotel located at the base of the San Cristobal hill--from a top floor bar and lounge, I could see the gondola cars making their way up the hill. I had a 7th floor room that overlooked the city. The hotel had nice restaurants, bars, lounges, an outside pool, and a great service staff.
Early on in my cruise planning, I decided I wanted an extensive tour of the capital that also included a winery visit, so I booked a Viator city tour with a winery tour. Unfortunately, the winery visit could not be held be because an insufficient number of people had signed up for that portion of the overall tour, so it had to be canceled.
Travel to Embarkation Port
Because I had not bought transfers from Princess, I decided to use Viator's services of a private transfer to the pier at San Antonio, Chile. I was glad I did this because doing so made the trip a personal one w/o lots of commentary from a guide. Upon approaching the port, it had a ramshackle appearance with many boarded up buildings. The cruise terminal was in a large warehouse renovated for the whole check-in process, which happened very quickly--even with a short wait for one's number to be called. After checking in and being given the key card, I went through security and was told I had to board a shuttle to take me to the ship itself: the vessel was docked at a cargo loading area, which was very dangerous for pedestrians.
As previously mentioned, this was the first time I had been aboard a Princess ship since being aboard the old Royal Princess (the one christened by Princess Di in '84) for a fall '95 Baltic Sea cruise. That ship was smaller than the Coral Princess, a 91,000 GRT vessel that was a Panamax-rated, meaning that her size was the maximum that could be accommodated by the Panama Canal locks in operation at the time of her launching. She was one of two ships of her class, the other being Island Princess. Coral was a good-looking ship and had a great service staff in all departments.
The service aboard ship was terrific, whether you were in a bar, a dining room, at the pool, the pizzerias, in your cabin, on a port excursion, or had need of the ship's doctors (as I did on one occasion). After muster drill, I made my way to the Guest Service desk to validate whether guest service quality had declined as I've read in this forum many times. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, and I advised the person who served me that I might have some difficulty with going aboard the tenders. He made sure that not only was I placed on a special needs list of folks who needed help in getting to muster stations, but also on a list of folks who needed assistance to board tenders. Well done, Guest Services staff!
Two particular activities I participated in were the Spanish@Sea classes held on Sea Days and taught by Amparo, the Chilean-born Assistant Cruise Director. The other activity was trivia contests. In addition, I made myself a regular at Crooners' Bar, a lounge decorated by pictures of the Rat Pack, a group of singers and showbiz guys who reigned supreme in Vegas of the 50s and 60s. Note: for Millennials and Gen X, Y, and Z readers, the Rat Pack crew included Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford. The lounge was primarily a piano bar presided over by pianist-songwriter Sammy Goldstein, Jr.
I had a wheelchair-accessible cabin with balcony, category BD, on Caribe Deck (Deck 10). The cabin had nice closets, a queen-size bed, twin sets of drawer space, an good-sized desk, and a very big flat-panel TV. Regarding that piece of equipment, you had to duck down to avoid hitting your head on the TV because nearly half of it was over the desk and bar area. There was an empty mini-frig below the bar area. The balcony was large with plenty of space to walk around, two lounge chairs and a table. The bathroom was large to accommodate a walker or wheelchair person; there was a roll-in shower, a fold-down seat, handheld shower wand, soap and shampoo dispensers on the wall, and two shelves for one's meds or toiletries but only one sink. Frankly, how that bathroom could accommodate two people sharing the cabin was a riddle, because the sink's space barely accommodated my needs.
I had late sitting dinner, table #166 in the Provence Dining Room. Although the pretty Asian lady server told me her name, I couldn't remember it, but she remembered mine and always called me "Mr. Shep" throughout the cruise. I had bought a 3-bottle wine package, and the server made sure that all bottles were brought to my table. My table-mates included an Indian couple from Canada and a family from Texas. In many cruises I've taken for the past 4 decades, this trip was one of the very few whose dining companions were so agreeable that I didn't need to change tables. For other meals, I took advantage of the complimentary pizza at Sabatini's, Alberto's Pizzeria on Deck 14, Horizon Court buffet, the Bordeaux DR for lunch, and room service (especially for early AM shore excursion departures).
During my four decades of cruising, I've decreased my visits to the showroom considerably, and only patronize it when there's a comedian, juggler, opera singer, or other special entertainer scheduled for that evening. The one time I went to a cruise ship show for this trip was for a very funny comedian, John McDonnell. The Cruise Director was Fernando, a fairly entertaining guy who hailed from Brazil, emceed the shows and held sway over the many activities shown in the Princess Patter.
Ports and Shore Excursions
San Antonio/Santiago, Chile
I've already described the San Antonio port area, and Santiago itself was a very pretty city dotted with 16th century buildings interspersed with green spaces and modern skyscrapers.
Puerto Montt, Chile
Because of an accident in my cabin, I was unable to do the sheep ranch and BBQ excursion I had booked for this port. I overheard from many guests that this port was worth visiting. The next day, I visited the library and chose a book whose author was the only one I liked, JK Rowling. I read that book during the cruise. I also discovered where the Internet Cafe was, and started using the Windows PCs to access my emails. The price was decent: 85 bucks for nearly two weeks' service during the voyage.
Punta Arenas, Chile
This port required tendering, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ship had a special lift to accommodate folks w/special needs to get us from Deck 4 to the tender embarkation platform. I didn't have to walk down or up steps to get to the tender platform, and the crew members took my walker aboard and took it ashore from tenders with ease. Well done, Princess! My tour consisted of a visit to an estancia in Patagonia, Estancia Fitz Roy, for watching how sheep were herded, shorn, and a nice lunch with spit-roasted lamb. I should note here my shore excursion had two Cruise Critic Roll Call members, Rosa and her spouse. The other CC Roll Call members had their own private excursions to our ports of call. I was glad to see Rosa and her man and have their company on this excursion.
Part of the itinerary included a side trip to see Amelia Glacier in a fjord. I saw the glacier, which wasn't as impressive in size to Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau, AK. In addition, the trip included rounding Cape Horn. Usually, there's rough seas for ships doing this, but for our journey, the seas were not as rough. Everybody aboard received a certificate for Rounding Cape Horn on X date in Feb 2020.
I was originally scheduled to do a tour that included a train trip to the southernmost point in the Western Hemisphere, but I wanted to recover from another accident I had on this trip, one that happened at that Patagonian estancia. So I stayed aboard ship and took photos of the port from my balcony.
Port Stanley, Falklands, UK
I was scheduled to do a tour of the island's Falklands War battlefields, but the Captain told the guests that they were cancelling most of the tours because of crappy weather that made tendering to the pier too hazardous. So I ended up not going on that tour, too. I stayed aboard and had lunch someplace, then went to the Wheelhouse Bar for the trivia contest. I was joined there by one of my table-mates from dinner, who had come there from one of the Deck 14 food places, the Trident Grill.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
At last, a port that didn't require tendering! Also, the weather was sunny and mild, perfect for visiting this port. My excursion visited Point Loma, a place where sea lions, penguins, and seals made their home, and a paleoontology museum with exhibits from excavations of prehistoric animals and people living in Patagonia way back during the dinosaur age. I took advantage of the opportunity to eat an Argentina snack food, alfajores, which was like a Scooter Pie: a large cookie covered in chocolate and a marshmallow filling. Yum! Sometimes, the best souvenirs are the ones that go into one's belly instead of on your bookshelves, and this snack filled that bill to a T.
I had booked a shore excursion to visit a town called Colonia de Sacramento, a 2.5-hour bus ride each way. It was a great visit to a 16th century town, complete with boulder-strewn and cobblestone streets that made walking on them with a walker very difficult, but I had help from a shore excursion staff member who accompanied the tour. The excursion included lunch with wine and the opportunity to buy souvenirs. I didn't buy anything because I didn't want anything to fill increasingly limited shelf space.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
My shore excursion combined a city visit and a lunch with tango show. My tour showed many sights of this city whose nickname was the "Paris of the South," including Recoleta Cemetery, Casa Rosada, etc. The lunch and tango show was very good, especially the lunch with a choice of entree, appetizer, dessert, bread, and wine. This city being Buenos Aires, a place known for its wonderful beef, I had to give the steaks a try, and I was not disappointed by the quality of the beef.
The process was pretty much a breeze, especially finding my suitcase and going through passport control and immigration. But the transportation scene was a madhouse, and I had to find my Viator driver to take me to my BA hotel, Argenta Hotel Suites. Eventually, we found each other, and he took me to my hotel, which was very close to the pier. I had a great stay there for my first time to the Argentine capital. Two days later, I had another private transfer to Ezeia, the town where the international airport was located. Big airport, but made manageable with the assistance of my wheelchair pusher.
Would I go again on a Princess ship? You bet! I'm going on Coral's sister ship, Island Princess for a visit to Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the UK in July. The service quality in all departments, especially for us special needs folks made this cruise and the ship more enjoyable. In addition, in contrast to the constant fawning over suite guests that RCCL and Celebrity engage in on their ships, Princess keeps their attention on suite guests low-key.
Let me say a few words about the Cruise Critic situation aboard Coral on this cruise. Although there as an OK and well-attended Meet and Greet on the first Sea Day, it was also too low-key to be real enjoyable. I did get to meet some of the people whose names I could associated w/their postings on the Roll Call forum--Rosadpx, Lisa and David. There were name tags, but you had to find them on a table somewhere in the venue that hosted the Meet and Greet, the Wheelhouse Bar. In contrast with the August '19 British Isles cruise aboard Celebrity Reflection, this Roll Call was not as social as I hoped it would be. I just wish there was a lead Roll Call person to introduce wallflowers like me to fellow Roll Call members. I also wish that CC Roll Call would make an effort to have fellow members sit as dinner table groups, but I recognize that desire might not be so welcome if other CC Roll Call folks consist of people who usually travel together. I do hope that the CC Roll Call for the Norway and Iceland cruise this July will be more social. Fingers are crossed for that situation to happen! Read Less