San Francisco to Santiago: Part 1 of a dream must do cruise: Star Princess Cruise Review by ibfern

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San Francisco to Santiago: Part 1 of a dream must do cruise

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: South America
Embarkation: San Francisco
We were able to get on the ship fairly early, we arrived at 11:15 and made it onto the ship by noon. Muster was early, at 3:20, and we had daylight as we sailed away under the Golden Gate Bridge! This ship was filled with some nice folks and good energy, I expected the cruise would be fantastic

Embarkation was easy and quick. We found our friends in line before we got on the ship. We had a strange lunch, the dining room was open but there were only 2 choices on the menu--fish and beef. We asked for extra veggies and a salad, which was not on the menu.

The staff was very nice and friendly. Our captain was Edward Perrin, JJ Ullrich was our Cruise director, and Rui Pereira was the Maitre 'd. We met Rui the day we embarked and he was generous with our cruise critic group helping us plan several luncheons for this and the next cruise. He also helped us get an assigned table with our friends Gloria and Lew.

There were a lot of activities going on all day More long; we had lectures on ports with Joe May, and a lecture on Lewis & Clark in the afternoon with Lenard Davis. Mama Mia and many other movies and concerts played on Muts, as well as NFL football (Denver vs Raiders), and nature movies such as the Beasts of the Southern Wild. My husband Ken was thrilled to find Bridge daily, while I prefered playing Pictonary, shopping, and roaming the decks for quiet places to read and write. Trivia was held at least 3 times a day, and some nights we had TV themed trivia, as well as music themed "name that tune" trivias. I'd been training my whole like for the music trivias! There were only a few trivia fights which was very contained compared to other cruises I have been on

The Internet was screwy and slow much of the time, it took me up to 25 minutes to copy and paste my live posts. I mostly wrote off line to save minutes. It was always time for a few laps around the Promenade deck, lunch was usually yummy and It seemed like I always needed to make room for dinner. ;)

We spotted a pod of whales off our port side balcony and hoped we would see more. It was not quite whale season here, since it began Dec 15. We continued to spot huge pods of dolphins, sometimes it looked like there was hundreds out there. They were huge dolphins, and half the ship came out on decks to watch their acrobatics because the staff and captain always announced their presence. It was very nice that the captain was so comfortable narrating these moments.

I started to order a big bowl of berries for breakfast on the first day and got them every morning of the cruise, that surprised me because they don't usually do that. The staff on this ship was outstanding, kind, friendly, and generous. There was a new kid named Brandon and although this was his first contract, he was fantastic, a true pro. I see big things in the future for him on Princess. He ruan a great trivia game, he was understandable, funny, and from someplace in the southern US. Hopefully he will still be on when some of you join us or take a later SA cruise, I am sure you will all enjoy him.

I met Joe May for the first time. He lectured on Central America and he offered very good information. I can see why many cruise critic friends were so impressed. The theater was jam packed for his lectures, Ken and I had to stand in the isles but he was worth it. However I was not able to talk to him about how long his contract was, but he stayed on the ship for both cruises we were on.

We had a big get together with our dear cruise critic friends, we all ate lunch together at a table for 10, and met again at 5PM in Skywalkers. They alternated the foods they served in Skywalkers nightly and always had veggies, olives, cheeses and more. It was yummy. Sometimes we talked for so long during our impromptu get togethers that we missed our assigned seating. Then we would just head up to the Horizon court to eat.

I have to say that our room steward was incredible. We were in room b732 and his name is Reynaldo C. I throw my shoes into the bottom of the closet and never arrange them but Reynaldo did it every day until I felt obligated to keep them neat. It's a good thing! He was very attentive but never imposing, and he never forgot to bring us anything we asked for. He was a keeper!

One night we played Beatles "name that tune" and got 19 out of 20 but we did not win. It was great fun to sing the songs anyway. After we played Majority rules. This is a hilarious game, I laughed until I cried. We enjoyed both games and missed the shows because they were so fun.

12/8/12 Cabo San Lucas

It's warm and sunny outside, a perfect day to visit Cabo San Lucas. We saw many whales off our balcony this morning, as well as dolphins and sea lions.. As we are parked in the bay, we are surrounded by people on paddle boards, wave riders, and many tender boats. We have 6 princess tenders and 6 local tenders, it looks like everybody will get off quickly.

We walked everywhere with our friends, shopped a little and went to a bar and had chips, dip, and buckets of beer for almost nothing ($10). All in all it was a very nice day. There were so many tenders available that there was no lines going or coming.

We had a code Alpha announcement early in the morning and A minute after the code alpha, there was another announcement about a school of dolphins on the port side. I am so glad we are on the port side, we are seeing a lot of dolphins, whales, and jumping fish! If you are booking this cruise, try to get the port side!

We had an informal get together with our gang of 10 at the Elite lounge, we had such a good time many of us missed our assigned seating for dinner so we went to the buffet instead. I really like the new configuration with the desserts separated from the other food because it is easier to avoid it and stay on my diet! Still, I looked and then grabbed a dessert for Ken and then got to taste it and it was good. Chocolate pecan pie was yummy.

12/11/12 Guatemala

We visited Guatemala as our second port stop, it was hot and sticky at the port but having chosen to go to Antigua was an excellent choice because it is above 550 thousand feet and was perfect weather, cool without the sticky air.

We made a mistake and took a Princess tour to the Filadelfia Coffee Plantation and hotel, mostly hotel! We also visited Antigua to learn of its history, and do a little shopping. This cost $99 each and included a basic lunch of baked potato, a quarter of a piece of corn on the Cobb, beans, guacamole and chips, and a iffy piece of meat which was too underdone for lots of people.

The plantation was nice but seemed fictional, more of a mock up to demo the process they use making their coffee rather then a real processing plant. It was interesting to learn how they grow, pick, husk the seed, dry and ferment them, and finally roast and package them for consumption. They make three grades of coffee there, and we did get to taste the coffee at lunch. Unfortunately they did not give us enough warning and time to go buy any. We were told that the coffee could be bought cheaper in Antigua, but in fact it was 25% more expensive. I did not get any!

Although there was no indication that we would be taken to any factories--we took this tour to avoid the ones we were taken to on our last visit here several years ago-- we were immediately taken to the "jade" museum which we had visited before. Museum is code for huge boring store where the guide gets a commission if you buy stuff! They even put a string necklace on each of us to identify which guide was due the commission! Our guide was going to make us stay there a half hour but I incited a mutiny when I told him I told him I did not want to stay since I had been there before! Many of the people on out tour agreed and he left the few people at the store and walked us around the corner to a crafts market where we were at least able to walk around and look, and of course buy stuff too.

We should have either gone on our own or taken the Princess "on your own" tour instead. We should have known when the day started off in a chaos of humanity all trying to get off the ship at the same time. We had a tough time finding our tour, even our husbands who are gentlemen and let others go ahead making it easier for them to get lost. It did not seem organized at all.

Guatemala is a nice place, we love the colorful fabrics and people too. Beware of the children who hound you to shine their shoes, they should be in school but instead are pounding people for anything they an get! I made the mistake of giving one child a few bucks and before I knew it many kids were asking me for the same. The most disturbing thing was that the original kid I gave money to came back to me many times asking me if he could shine my shoes. I told him if he went to school he would remember that he had already asked me!

Several days before on the ship I met a teacher who was trying to gather stuff to bring to a school near the port, she needed pens for all of the students and I managed to secure her pens, water bottles, and a few other trivia gifts to bring them. Last night I she found me at trivia and told me the school was not open. She said Captain Ed Perrin offered to take her to an orphanage where she was able distribute the pens and other goodies to some needy children. What a nice guy!

12/12/12 San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

We had a problem today, some passengers saw a small boat of fisherman and called the Captain to tell him that they were in trouble. So we had to go back and find them to make sure they were ok, it took an hour to double back and when we found them, they were waving fish at us because nothing was wrong. Unfortunately this caused a tremendous delay and we did not arrive until an hour later.

This port only allows one tender at a time, it takes a long time to disembark passengers under the best of circumstances and we have a full ship! So we were all called to report to the Princess Theater 45 minutes later than our tour tickets indicated, and the theater was full, jammed with people. We waited, as they announced that we would still get our full tour, but I was beginning to doubt this as it approached 2:30! It is an hour and a half each way to Granada, and we were also visiting the Tobacco plantation and Park central. Anyway, Gloria and Lew were on a different excursion, which included lunch, but as it approached 3pm it seemed unlikely that they would be eating lunch and swimming in lake Nicaragua in the dark is not fun! I see my friend marching to the excursion people and I know she is speaking for us all; we want our money back! She announced to me and I announced to my side of the theater that if you turn your tickets in you will get a full refund. Thank you Princess.

It's 3:30 now and the last tender will be by 6:30, but they just announced that no more tender tickets are required, so that means most people are off and it took hours to get them off. By my reckoning, people will need to stars coming back now if they expect to get everybody by 6:30's all aboard. We decided to stay on the ship since it is so hot and muggy and standing in a tender line on shore for hours didn't sound like fun.

Please be aware of the tender limitations of this port when you are planning your excursions. In fact, this was not even the worst news of the day. We all got notices that we may not be allowed to get into any Argentinean ports, including Buenos Aires, if we go to the Falklands. So far they are just warning us of this potential problem and obviously we would rather miss one port than many in Argentina.

Today's problems could clearly delay us in a domino effect on all the upcoming ports, and we prepaid for a gourmet tour to Lima, if we arrive late we might lose our money. C'est la vie!

In retrospect the whole experience in SJDS was very interesting, I had never experienced a day like that on a ship. We arrived late to Nicaragua (SJDS), a tender port that allows only one tender to dock at a time. The captain announced that we should add 45 min. To our tours so we went to the Princess Theater at 12:15 rather than 11.30. We sat and waited and watched the theater become more and more packed. By 1:30 we knew something was up but when I asked about how we could do the full tour at that point, the staff told us not to be concerned.

One tour at a time was called to the tenders, they each took so long that by 3 pm we knew it was going to be a strange day. Gloria asked about her lunch tour and was finally told that if she wanted to cancel and turn in her tickets, she could do that. That info quickly spread through the entire theater and once again we encountered a mass of people flooding out to turn in their tickets! We did just that.

Ken figured that they were running about 6 drop offs per hour, with 5 tenders in the bay making the run, one at a time to the dock! We had all been to SJDS several times before and decided to stay on the ship. We had Wine time with Gloria and Lew on their huge forward balcony and enjoyed ourselves despite missing our tours.

We were supposed to leave by 6, then 6:30, and the tenders kept coming back to the ship. We watched the sunset then went to eat, the dining room was almost completely empty. At 7:30 we ran to "name that tune trivia" and the room was empty. Easy win for us!

Long story short, by 8 pm there were still 700 people waiting to tender back to the ship in the dark. We were all glad we didn't go ashore, and many said that tendering in the dark was not so fun! This day was quite memorable, and I think even if we were not late, we would have had problems tendering all the people in a timely manner. Moral of this story is when you come to SJDS get off the ship as quick as you can and come back early! Unless you like chaos.

All night the ship jammed to Puntarenas, Costa Rica much faster than normal, but still it was steady and the seas were smooth. By 5 in the morning it was already getting light and I could see we were approaching our destination.

12/13/12 Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest

We made it on time to Puntarenas, the ship hauled ass gliding through the seas like a bullet. Good job Captain Perrin! The seas have been so smooth, and the weather has been perfect so far. Last night was the first night we've had any clouds at all, of course the Geminid meteor shower peaked last night and we could not see a thing. We are stargazers and being in the middle of the ocean is a perfect place to find dark sky's and few lights but only when there are no clouds. Oh well, we cruise every December and eventually we will catch some shooting stars.

We all ignored the excursion instructions to bring warm clothing and rain gear to Monteverde, naturally it was pouring; driving cold rain that kept us wet the whole day. If you go to a cloud forest be smart and know there will be clouds and probably some rain. At 6,000 ft above the sea it's not as warm. This is what makes the cloud forest so unique In the middle of the tropics.

In spite of not being prepared, we had a wonderful time! This is such a special place, it is one of very few places that has been preserved for the last 80 or so years because of a group of people who protected it from us. It was more than I imagined, the beauty of the forest covered in fog, with weather that changes from one minute to the next.

Our tour included a ride on a train through this magical forest, nothing about it was concocted and though the train was a bit hokey, it truly brought us a better appreciation of the flora and fauna of this area. We visited a platform in the middle of this place to rest and warm up with coffee, the brave (and better prepared) had a walk through the forest while we stayed put under the protection of cover. On our way back to the starting point, the train pooped out and did not want to make that final run back up to the starting point. We backed up and tried to race up it and this failed several times. By then I was thinking " I think I can, I think I can" in my head and finally our little choo choo made it!

We had a typical Costa Rican meal of rice, beans, meat, and veggies with Guava juice and more coffee. Then we headed back down the mountain, slowly meandering down the gravel bumpy road and trying to not look out at the close ledge on my side of the bus. Once we hit the paved road it was much smoother, thankfully there was a bathroom on the bus!

We visited a dumb market filled with the typical crap that is touted as genuine Costa Rican made, but it sure looked like stuff made on the other side of the Pacific in China. We were told by our guide that Costa Ricans find bargaining insulting. This made me laugh, and I did not spend any money there at all, preferring to frequent places that bargain. It's all the same stuff anyway.

We did spot A lot of Monkeys along the road from Monteverde, as well as dogs, cattle, and lots of termite nests, which a grossly large. Our guide stopped us at what looked like a regular river but after our driver ran down, collected water, and passed it around we got to feel that it was very warm spring water. We also learned a out the different trees and flowers along the road. I got some scrapbook samples of leaves and flowers. My friend freaked me out when she told me the leaves had cucaracha's on it, I threw it down and as she laughed at me I realized she was making a funny! I hate cockroaches. We laughed a lot!

Got back to the ship with several minutes to spare, and it was time to say goodbye to Costa Rica. We visited the elite lounge for sushi, cleaned up, and made it to dinner by 6. Sunset was exquisite, as they usually are, and we watched it from our lovely window table. It was an excellent day, and our last stop in Central America. South America here we come.

12/15/12 Sea Day (formal)

Today was a perfect rest day after several ports. We had a lazy breakfast with our friends and looked at the new "south American" stuff in the shops. The day before the boutiques were closed as they changed out all the Hawaiian and Panama Canal clothing and other do-dads. I figure all the other stuff will be in the next 3 hour sale, we've already had one.

Although we crossed the equator late last night, we had the crossing of the equator ceremony during the day and it was fun. The Staff captain was deeply involved in this ceremony and he emerged covered with all sorts of nasty looking stuff. It did not last nearly as long as the ceremony I witnessed on the Pacific Princess. The chair hogs were ever present as people dumped piles of towels on loungers and came to claim then much later! Manta, Ecuador 12/16/12

We arrived early in Manta, maybe 6am. There is an all day excursion to Quito which involves a long drive and a plane ride, it costs about a $1,000 per person. We did not choose that option!

Instead we opted for a private full day tour and our guide Juan Carlos promptly picked us up at the port by 8:30. Juan Carlos, a young man with a pleasant personality, was a little shy but really took good care of us. We also had a driver who followed us around, driving to the bottom of hills and helping us avoid long uphill walks.

Our first stop was a house made of poop! There was a Princess bus already there and we opted for our guide to tell us about it while we stayed in the car! Anyway, the poop house kind of grossed us out, we did learn about it from afar and we did not not have to mix with the large tour group. Our guide smiled and we continued on.

This area is very dry, the dry tropics, although it was pleasantly cloudy and not nearly as warm as we had expected. We headed up to the Pacoche rain forest (actually semi humid forest) where we set out for our walk in the forest. Beware that this walk is somewhat challenging in that we descended into the deep forest along a somewhat slippery path which included rickety stairs, bridges made of logs, and lots of slippery rocks. I am not trying to dissuade anybody from doing this, it was incredible, but I am warning you to wear tennis shoes or hiking boots. Anyway, we had a guide and an interpreter along with us as well as another small group of 5 from the ship which was lucky because one of them also spoke Spanish so we actually had two interpreters and that was fabulous. Our guide was quite engaging as he described the flora a fauna of the area. We were all concerned a out how we would climb out of this place but our guide assured us that we would not have to climb back up. By the time we reached the floor of the forest we could hear howling and all sorts of bird songs. We were following a small river which was quite challenging but at this point we banded together in what became a fantastic team building opportunity.

All the men helped the woman and each other as we forged up the river and nobody got hurt! It was a wonderful experience, one that we might not have chosen if it was described to us any other way than a "walk". Anyway we quietly made our way up the stream when suddenly we were surrounded by trees full of Howler Monkeys. Our guide pointed out the alpha male, and his family which included many young monkeys. Alpha male made his way down towards us, he needed to check us out and make sure we were not going to hurt his family. All became quiet until he decided we were ok and the he climbed back up to the treetops and off he and his family went. We were blown away to see these creatures in their natural habitat, a much different experience than the Costa Rican tours where the Monkeys are encouraged to visit us because we have food for them! We continued though the forest when I began to hear what I thought was cars on a road. Suddenly we approached a final bridge which lead to the road and there was our driver and our guide! We all felt like we really accomplished something great and at the very least we had our work outs!

Back in the van, several hours had passed since we started our walk/hike and it was time for lunch. Our full day tour which cost $90 pp included a nice lunch in a restaurant in Manta. We had an option to pre-order chicken with apples, chicken and filet mignon, or fish. We put in our orders a few days before we got to Manta. The restaurant was lovely, the owner quite friendly, and we all sat together on a long table, maybe there was 20 people, all from our CC group. We laughed as we were all served chicken wrapped around veggies with an apple sauce, Filet mignon with a mushroom sauce, vegetables, garlic bread, coke and water, and a creamy dessert which I did not eat because I a. Trying to diet. Lol. None of us got what we pre- ordered but we liked it enough to not bother asking for something else. We laughed about it instead of complaining, my group of affable folks all easy going and gracious because we are well traveled and appreciate the mistakes which turn into benefits!

After lunch, we headed to the Archeological museum in Manta. A lovely girl took us on an abbreviated tour, shortened because we were running late and all the girls wanted to have time to shop! Last stop was the museum gift store where we all bought incredibly inexpensive small statues and ivory nut carvings. Don't miss this gift shop!

Next we headed to Montechristi, a quaint town in the hills above Manta. Along the way we saw ships that were stuck in the mud flats caused by a low tide, and many fishermen cleaning fish with a line of birds behind them for their cast offs! It was funny to see that bird line.

In Montecristi we saw the church but did not go in because time was running short. We ran into a large mob of bus people ( those on Princess tours) and many street vendors. We stopped at the Panama hat factory. Had our pictures taken with a woman weaving hats, and Juan Carlos taught us how to pick the real deals from the fakes that apparently disintegrate with time! The real hats are rolled up and stored in lovely boxes, the weave is tight, and the color is uniform. There was plenty of "shops, booths, and street vendors and we all bought things as a mementos of our visit to Manta. We all agreed that this day was spectacular and filled with much fun and joy. I highly recommend taking this tour and if you need specifics I will report them when I get home.

Manta, Ecuador
Metropolitan Touring Manta
Full day tour of Manta, Montecrisiti and Pacoche
Calle 13 N 1235 y Av. Cuarta
Manta - Manabí - Ecuador
Telefono: (593-5) 2-620095
Móvil: (593-9) 999053927 / 0993883856

12/17/12 & 12/18/12 Lima. Peru

We arrived in Lima and before we docked, there were problems! Another ship was in our berth and we were delayed by an hour or so, the international cafe was jammed with People waiting to go on tours. Getting off the ship for us was a huge bummer, mass chaos and and nobody knowing where to go for the various shuttles. Princess offered a free shuttle to the Marriott hotel, which is close to a shopping mall on the side of a cliff over the ocean. We had a private tour planned, and there was another shuttle which took us to the gate of the busy commercial port. They would not allow anybody to simply walk off so aside from the Princess tours, these two options were the only options. I got the impression that nobody actually knew how this worked but by the grace of the universe we found a "gate shuttle" and found our tour guide waiting. This was the beginning of an incredible day!

Lucas (our guide and owner) and driver Jaime were standing waiting for us, they scurried the 6 of us onto their van and off we went on a culinary adventure. We used Capital Culinaria (Lima Gourmet Tours) owned by Lucas and Samantha Montes de Oca. Their website is This was one of the best tours I have ever been on and I am happy to share my experiences with all of you. From the second we got on the bus until late at night when we were dropped at the port gate, Lucas guided (an protected) us through the various districts of this large and crowded city.

The port area of Callao is very bad, you can see the area is dangerous and most of the establishments are covered in barbed wire as if they were prisons. As we got closer to Lima, the area got nicer and we saw every fast food restaurant you could imagine including a two story McDonalds which offered delivery!

Our first stop was at the Larco Museum in the district of Pueblo Libre, a beautiful museum with lush gardens. We headed to their restaurant for lunch. The menu was designed by Peru's most famous chef, Gaston Acurio, dining was outside in the terrace gardens. This was one of the best meals I've had on this trip, and maybe in my life! We started with a Pisco Sour which was yummy and quite strong-- I only took a sip but I could tell this was a happy making drink. The first course was a yellow potato dish that melted in our mouths, my husband got a delicious salad which was delicious as well. Before I go on I must tell you about the humongous corn they have here which they serve as corn nuts, as well as in many dishes. We had a bowl of huge corn nuts on the table which were delicious and plentiful. Next course was a delightful fusion of Asian and Peruvian food, a stir fry with beef and veggies that was very yummy, although weal old have ordered anything off the menu, Lucas advises us to try it and we were all grad we did. Finally we were served dessert, a pudding/Mousse made from a local fruit which tasted like butterscotch.

Next we were take on a guided tour of the museum, we had an English speaking museum guide who showed us all the wonderful artifacts and explained their meanings. One of our last museum stops was the sex room, filled with all imaginable symbols of sexual acts and phallic symbols. Of course this was our favorite room and the 6 of us took many pictures. ;) The last room we visited was an archive of all the items this museum owned, from pottery to jewelry, there were rows and rows of items and we were all suitably impressed. At the end of the tour our guide took pictures of us at all the best places, and we were off to our next sight!

As we headed to the Church of San Francisco with its legendary catacombs, we got a glimpse of the traffic in Lima as well as the vast population of government workers who crowd the streets and the roads. Lucas pointed out a colorful shanty town on a hill above the city where many of these workers live, their average monthly salaries equaled about $600 US dollars.

The Church was beautiful, located down town in a square filled with pigeons and people. We entered the church and had a tour of the church above ground. Then we descended down to the catacombs, which were interesting but not for the claustrophobic. The smell of earth was pleasing to me, and the plots of bones, sorted by type, were very interesting if not a little macabre. We all enjoyed this,

Next we had a visual tour of the center of Lima including la plaza Mayor, Plaza San Martin, the presidents residence, and more. It's was during rush hour giving a new meaning to traffic jam! We saw all this as we headed for the upscale colonial district of Barranco. We saw a beautiful Starbucks in an ancient building, a nice crafts market, and finally we saw the "bridge of sighs" where lovers go. Lucas explained that if you cross the bridge holding your lovers hand while you hold your breath, you will be guaranteed eternal happiness. Of course we all crossed it successfully!

We continued driving along the seaside road and saw many styles of homes from Japanese to British, all side by side in this beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores. This is the nicest neighborhood in Lima. We finally came to some beautiful pre-Incan ruins which were lit up as it was nighttime. We ate tapas appetizers, Peruvian dishes, and desserts in this beautiful restaurant called la Huaca Pucillana (the name of the ruins as well) and had another incredible food experience as we ate outside viewing the ruins bathed in light. I am a picky eater and was grateful that Lucas did not tell me what I was eating until after I finished it but suffice it to say it was delicious. I'll let you all discover what it was when you visit Lima and take this tour!

After our meal, we visited a supermarket and bought wine, spices, coffee, and a delicious drink called "Che Che" made from blue corn which I loved. It is always cool to see supermarkets in foreign countries and this was fantastic. Our final experience was driving through the center of Lima and seeing all the buildings lit up at night, a perfect topper to a perfect day. We were dropped off at the port, Lucas made sure we got on the port shuttle and our day was over. We got back to the cabin by 11 pm, exhausted and happy.

Lima, Peru
Samantha Lewis (and husband Lucas)
Capital Culinaria Lima Gourmet Tours
T:+(51) 1 4466829
C:+(51) 956385854

12/21/12 Coquimbo /La Serena, Chile

We just finished dinner after a day in Coquimbo and La Serena where we had a private tour. The tour was supposed to include a visit to a winery and a fancy lunch at a solar restaurant, but the winery was closed for the holidays so we didn't go. We expected to be a tour of 10 and the guide was supposed to pick us up at 8:15am but he wasn't there when we walked out and he finally found us at 9am. We ended up doing all our stops with a large Princess bus and another private tour bus and it was a zoo everywhere we went, eliminating the whole purpose of a private tour! Needless to say, I would not recommend the tour company, I did not arrange the tour and I would be reticent to recommend it, below is the info, plan carefully!

La Serena
Al Ramirez Boutique Wine Tours
5 Norte 209 (Esq. 5 Poniente) Office N° 05
Vi'a Del Mar, Chile | Chile Office: (+56 32) 251-7714
Chile Mobile: +(56 09) 5 413 4345 | USA Office: (+1 561) 705-0107
Al Ramirez Boutique Wine Tours | MDT & Co. LTDA |

Notes on ports, weather, and other stuff

I got an emergency notice from my TA, our arrival to Ushuaia had been delayed, instead of arriving at noon, we would be arriving at 2:3pm, due to tides. I thought the tide info is known years in advance and it doesn't seem logical that this would cause us to port later. In any.event, we will have to adjust or cancel our private tour there. It should stay light late there so maybe an afternoon/evening tour would be OK. Later, I find out this delay had to do with the weight of our sizable ship and dependant on a certain tide level!

The weather had been surprising to us, we would have thought it would be warm at the equator and south of it because its summer here. Instead it's quite cool, Manta was in the 70's and cloudy, Lima was in the low 70's and its been downright cold on the ship. We have had cloudy days since Costa Rica and its too windy and cold to watch Muts at night. It never rains in Lima except the night we spent there, it poured! I guess we should expect the unexpected. I am glad I brought rainwear, a down coat, and sweaters. Apparently there is a cold water current that keeps the west coast of South America cool. Be prepared for this.

Many people are still pissed off about the port of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, nobody who took Princess shore excursions got decent tours because it took so long to tender the tour groups and many arrived at their destinations in the dark. This is a bad port for organized excursions, especially if you are here only a half day. Instead of taking an excursion, get off the ship as quick as you can and enjoy the quaint city of SJDS. Some people got off the ship, found some bars on the beach that offered two chairs, two beers, and an umbrella for $5 and were very happy with that!

Lima was also very problematic, it seemed like nobody knew how to deal with the particulars of this port. It's a commercial port and private tour buses/vans are allowed In so there is a shuttle that takes you to the front gate, however it's not labeled and very hard to find. A lot of poor behavior came out as people were scrambling to get to their private tours, or begin their overland tours to MP. The vans that shuttle you to the gate are not labeled and it was difficult to know where to go so there was a lot of scrambling and confusion. The free shuttle to the Marriott hotel in Mira Flores was free but people were complaining that it took an hour to get there because of the massive traffic and the buses waited at the Marriott until they were completely full, even if it meant waiting on the bus for an hour or more. I have never seen so many people, cars, and traffic in my life and I grew up in Los Angeles! At least on our private tour we were in a small van that could take side streets and avoid the massive crowds at rush hours, and even with that advantage we were stuck for an hour or more In downtown traffic. Avoid the rush hours!

It looks like the Sun is trying to break out from the clouds, hopefully the weather will be more summer like soon. Meanwhile, there is plenty of activities here and the ship and all of the entertainers are new! Time for my bowl of mixed berries which I have been ordering since I got on this ship, I get more of them through room service than in the dining room. Go figure. Less

Published 01/14/13

Cabin review: BDb732 Balcony

Our cabin, B732 was a regular sized cabin with more than adequate space for us. The shower was small as usual but easy enough to get used to and there were magnets on the curtains to keep them away from hugging our bodies! Our port side balcony was smallish but perfect for the southbound cruise, we saw all the glaciers and other sites as well. The balcony had new furniture which was comfortable and the large table was a bonus, we usually get those smaller tables on the balconies.

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