Our cruise was from Santiago (Valparaiso) to Buenos Aires via Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands in late February. It provided a break between land trips to Machu Picchu, in Peru, and the Iguassu Falls on the Argentine / Brazil border, ... Read More
Our cruise was from Santiago (Valparaiso) to Buenos Aires via Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands in late February. It provided a break between land trips to Machu Picchu, in Peru, and the Iguassu Falls on the Argentine / Brazil border, which were the main reasons for visiting South America.
Having mentioned the reason for us taking the cruise, it would be remiss not to mention Machu Picchu and the Iguassu Falls. The cruise itself was certainly not a “trip of a life-time” but we were really glad that we had these two highlights on our “bucket list”.
Machu Picchu is amazing and even better than you might have imagined from any pictures. We had no problems with the altitude but drank plenty of water, avoided alcohol and coffee. Cusco and the Sacred Valley are also very interesting.
It is best to stay in Cusco and also stay a night in Machu Picchu, ideally at the Inkaterra Hotel. The Inca trail would have been quite a challenge (although it is closed in February) so we took the easier train option. Expect some rain but you might be lucky, like we were.
The Iguassu Falls are even more spectacular than Machu Picchu. Whilst it is possible to visit the falls from both the Argentinian side and Brazilian side in a single day, as we did, spreading this over two days would be better. We did not have time for either a helicopter trip or the very wet boat trip but managed to pick a day when the weather was perfect.
Crown Princess is basically the same as her sister ships, Emerald and Ruby Princess, but lacks the new bedding found on the Emerald princess.
Embarkation was delayed by several hours because the Valparaiso port stevedores were on strike. The Priority Boarding queue turned out to be the slowest line for boarding, so Princess's loyal passengers were inevitably upset. Loading of provisions was also curtailed, which was thought to account for the limited availability of wines on board.
Having gone through the usual passenger safety drill on arrival, we could not see why it was necessary to pipe the crew's own emergency drill, and other messages, through to all cabins, in English then Spanish, the following morning. Safety is important but was unnecessarily intrusive.
FOOD AND DRINK
All food was of a consistently good quality but Princess menus are now so predictable that they are boring. Some items, like chicken and leek pie seemed to appear several times, there were few fresh vegetables and hardly any seasonal fruit besides strawberries.
We soon discovered that the choice of wines, especially white wine, was very limited and they had abandoned the wine cards that normally give a discount package. On the first night, we opted for a bottle of basic Californian chardonnay (29 USD + 15% service) as there was very little Chilean wine available. After that, most passengers would return on board with a couple of bottles of very good Chilean wine, purchased locally for a few USD, and pay 15 USD corkage in the restaurant.
Service in the Botticelli restaurant was generally very good, except at breakfast time, which was often frustratingly slow. Choice of food at the busy Horizon Court was often better than the restaurants but you never knew when they had specials, like an Indian buffet, and had to search for each course.
Afternoon tea should be a leisurely event, so we refused to be rushed when the waiters descended. The International café, in the foyer, worked well on sea days but was otherwise over-crowded.
The cruise was advertised as having three formal nights but there were only two until they squeezed in another towards the end of the voyage. This might sound picky, but annoyed the ladies who had extra evening wear in their over weight luggage and those who enjoy lobster. In the end we had two lobster nights and everybody was satisfied.
The theatre was always packed to overflowing, so it was necessary to arrive at least 30 minutes early to find seats. In warmer locations, more passengers would probably have been out on the sun decks instead.
A Spanish guide, named Julio Delgardo, presented information about each port and kept the packed theatre amused with his whimsical, yet informative, style. He was not concerned with selling trips and was of great help to independent travellers (like us).
Princess has discovered that talks on forensics and security can be very popular, so Peter LaSorsa gave several talks on email security and identity theft. He also gave a good talk on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, although it was a little misplaced and would have been more relevant when cruising in the opposite direction.
The resident singers and dancers performed really well on a stage that was constantly moving in the choppy seas. One show was cancelled, just as it was about to start, because a band member was, unfortunately, taken ill.
We found the evening entertainment in the theatre rather disappointing, so maybe we are just getting hard to please as the theatre was packed for most of the shows.
We enjoyed the numerous trivia quiz sessions and even won several, only to find that Princess had run out of their usual prizes.
The cruise directors need to give more thought to the timing of activities, as it takes time to empty a theatre and get from one location to another. Activities seemed to clash throughout the morning then there was little to do in the afternoon whilst at sea.
We generally avoid organised excursions and find we can do more as independent travellers. Excursions on offer were either very easy to do ourselves or involved lengthy and costly trips to see penguins etc. The Elite priority boarding on tenders saves time but does not apply to excursions.
Along the Chile coast, we experienced 5 metre swells for around six hours, which was not much fun. Around Cape Horn it was mainly calm and sunny and the weather in the Falklands was really good, albeit with a cold wind at 9 am around Gypsy Cove, rising to about 17 degrees. From Puerto Madryn onwards it was mid 20s rising to 32 in Buenos Aires. Apart from the first port, we hardly saw any rain.
After reading earlier reviews, reporting lengthy waits for tenders, we realise how lucky we were with the weather in late February.
If, like us, you are mainly visiting South America to see Machu Picchu, in Peru, and the Iguassu Falls, on the border between Argentina and Brazil, you might find it easier to skip this cruise and fly from Lima to Buenos Aires. Santiago is fine, but maybe not worth a detour, and the Falkland Islands is much like England to the Brits.
Most of the port stops are not particularly interesting, unless you are keen to join a long excursion to see penguins of various types. We preferred to explore independently and thought that most of the Princess excursions were very over priced. The Tango Show in Buenos Aires is certainly worthwhile, if it is not included elsewhere on your travel plans.
Our cruise was competitively priced but the cost of excursions, drinks and gratuities seems excessive – so exercise your options!
We have cruised with Princess many times but would not rate this trip or Crown Princess very highly, as the entertainment was mediocre and the ship was very crowded. The staff and service were, however, up to Princess's high standards. Read Less