When we decided to take a cruise around Cape Horn, we knew we were going for the itinerary. There were three lines leaving Buenos Aires in the time-frame that we had (Celebrity, HA, and Princess). We chose the Princess because of the chance to go to the Falkland Islands. However, we also expected a certain level of entertainment, dining and an overall experience in line with the Princess brand.
1) The lack of exercise facilities. One of the things my wife and I look forward to when cruising is the running track. There's something about running on the high seas, with the challenge of the wind, the fresh air, etc. It's fantastic. According to Princess' website (even still today), they offer running trackS. Needless to say, there was not one. We had two options: Deck 15, which involved us hurdling over passengers and deck chairs, or Deck 7, which went 3/4 around the ship, until you meet 4 sets of stairs. Both options do not qualify as running tracks. On past cruises, there would be a dedicated area, size did not matter, with a proper running surface, that had no obstacles and just room to run.
2) Cleanliness. This should be #1, but I believe both go hand-in-hand. Princess does not take illness seriously, until it happens. There are Purell boxes available only at the buffet, the International Cafe and the pizza/hamburger restaurants. However, you will not find them when leaving any bathroom, the gym, entering the sit-down restaurants, or the casino. I witnessed a number of people not wash their hands in the bathroom, and as disgusting as that is, at least a Purell station would give them a chance to make amends. Personally, I got sick with the norovirus, after taking incredible care throughout the trip. While some might disagree, I put the blame on Princess for not doing enough to encourage cleanliness amongst other guests. I was aware of how quickly an illness can spread on a ship and I took the utmost care, but you never know what could trigger it, and I think Princess does not take it seriously.
With that being said, upon getting sick, Princess did ensure I was quarantined. However, what to do with my wife? I think if one wants to stop the spread of an illness, making my wife sleep in the same cabin as I is not the best step. Why not have a cabin available in this case? Let the companions of sick guests stay there until the illness has run its course. She was not quarantined and she could have potentially spread the illness throughout the ship. Not smart, Princess.
3) Entertainment: sub par. The non-singers were good: Comedian Cary Long and Hector the Magician were both pretty good. Gaucho Del Plato seemed like a continuous Saturday Night Live skit, but he was still entertaining. However, the Princess Pop Stars gave the paid musical entertainment a run for their money. The Princess singers were okay, but the dancers - continuously out of sync and should spend more time practicing than in the gym. Elvy Rose was awful. Crooner, Jamie Cuadra...much to be desired. It also begs to question the decision making at Princess when both Rose and Cuadra sing similar sets. I understand being in Latin America and I appreciate the music and culture, but it was a Latin American overload for the last week. Too much. The theatre was 2/3 empty.
In terms of the on-board activities, a number of the games were fun. The "Movies Under the Stars" is a great idea, but is anyone really going to sit outside in freezing weather to watch a movie? Why not broadcast elsewhere in the ship or in the staterooms?
4) Food: Two different experiences. The dining room food and service was excellent. The Maitre D, Neville, should have his own show in the Princess Theatre as he is both funny and charming. However, the buffet food leaves much to be desired. The bread was stale, the fish selection wasn't consistent, they would constantly run out (and not replenish) items. I expected much better from Princess and honestly, a Carnival cruise put this buffet to shame.
5) Tendering: Horrible. If you know you will be tendering in a port, why not run more tenders? At Stanley, the most popular port, there were two tenders going back and forth. The lineup was over an hour. Not acceptable.
6) Embarkation/Disembarkation: Surprisingly smooth and simple. I was impressed with that.
7) Staff: For the most part, they were very kind and helpful. Our waiters (Roy and Boris) were fantastic. Our cabin steward (Antonio) was also quite good. Having used the services of the nurse, I forger her name, she was excellent. Those reporting to the cruise director were also great. However, the other staff, at the guest services department, were subpar and useless.
Best experience of our cruise. We went to Volunteer Point with Jimmy & Tanya Curtis from Volunteer Point Tours. Everyone who goes will have the same experience at Volunteer Point, as the penguins are EVERYWHERE. However, for us, getting to and from Volunteers was really special. When you're spending four hours in a car with someone, it can either be really fun and enjoyable or just a horrible/drab drive. Jimmy really made it special. He gave us three tours in one, driving by and explaining battlefields as well as giving us a city tour at the end. Just conversing with him was great, too. He has lived in Stanley since the age of eight and we spoke about the war (6 months after he moved to the Falklands), politics, sports and everything you can imagine. We felt like locals for the day. It really gave us a perfect picture of life on the island. When we spoke about Jimmy and Tanya (We later met her at the pub) to other cruisers, they were very envious of the time we had as their drives consisted of silence and sleep. Highly recommend Jimmy and Tanya: curtis (at) volunteerpointtours (dot) com.
We were supposed to head to the Otway Sound Penguin Colony, but by the beginning of March, all the penguins had left. We were offered a city tour instead and trust me, you do not want to take a city tour of Punta Arenas. There is nothing special to see, nor anything to do. Better off sleeping.View All 24 City Tour Reviews
All the penguins at the Otway Sound Penguin Colony are gone by March. If you are going that late, do not book any penguin excursion.View All 32 Penguin Reserve Reviews