I was a little concerned after reading so many negative reviews of the Emerald Princess and the cruise in South America, so I wanted to get my opinion out there as well. This was our first 14 day cruise, but my 3rd with Princess and my 7th overall. We chose the cruise for the itinerary, and opportunity to see an area that is difficult to access. We are from the US and I’m in my mid 50’s. There were very few children on the cruise, and they were primarily from South America. The breakdown was primarily US, UK, Canada, Argentina and Chile in that order. I would say that many cruisers seemed to be the active retired age probably 60’s and 70’s. However, there were some with walkers and it looked like Princess did accommodate them with help in the buffet and on the tenders. We fortunately had good weather, and didn’t miss any ports. There were strong winds that closed the promenade deck a couple days, and you could feel the boat moving when we were close to Cape Horn. I took my sea sickness medication 2 days and never felt sick. My husband didn’t use it at all. This was a difficult cruise to pack for, but here’s a list of what seems necessary in addition to what you normally pack.. Raincoat or strong windbreaker, warm jacket that will fit underneath raincoat (either fleece, or a light down jacket), other clothes to layer, sturdy shoes that can get dirty/sandy-on excursions, knit cap, light gloves, light layer of long underwear, small backpack to stow layers when the weather warms up, binoculars, clothes for hot/humid weather, usual cruise attire. The passengers were fairly casual during the day, just be comfortable. Nights were definitely dressier, and some were pretty formal on formal nights. Our smart casual and formal were not much different, skirt with a slightly fancier top, my husband brought a shirt and tie but no jacket, although we saw tuxedos as well. Our belief is that a cruise is what you make of it, and it was nice to see so many people enjoying themselves.
The ship: So many said the Emerald is dated, I have to say again, that if you look for faults you can find them anywhere. We were not disappointed, and enjoyed the ship, the perfect size for this itinerary and a cruise without our children. We had traditional dining, and were glad we chose the late seating at 7:45pm since it gave us time to relax and shower after our excursions. We are not into the shows, although enjoyed the hypnotist, and the game shows in the Explorer’s lounge. The food was good, and we found our server steered us to the better entrees. We ate at the Crown Grill one night, and in the buffet one night. The buffet is crowded at lunch, so we ate pizza outside a couple times, and found it to be very good. Unfortunately, the pastries in the International Cafe are almost too delicious, so we were glad we used the stairs to go up and down. The gym is small, and was usually full so we walked around the Promenade deck which was often empty due to the wind and cool weather. The spa was fine, and I only got a soft sell for products, never felt pushed to buy.
The itinerary: The itinerary can’t be beat. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise with scenery and wildlife, this should be on your list. We were in an inside cabin, but a balcony could be useful as there is much to see even when not in port. The port talks by Julio Delgado were fantastic, and the enrichment lectures by Angela Kelly were standing room only and very popular. They added to our enjoyment of the area and the cruise. We did a mixture of Princess excursions and private tours arranged with cruise critic friends. Definitely plan ahead if you want to see penguins at Volunteer Point in the Falklands. We did this through Princess as the private tours were filled almost a year out. It was worth the bumpy ride to see the King penguins and their babies. Overall we did three separate penguin excursions, because I was afraid we would miss a port due to weather. We saw penguins on Magdalena Island from Punt Arenas, at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands, and at Punto Tomba in Puerto Madryn. They were all a little different, and the King penguins were the most striking with some Magellenic penguins also at Volunteer point. We like to ride bikes on vacation, and took a bike tour in Santiago with La Bicicleta Verde. We took their City Market tour which was a highlight of our time in Santiago. In Montevideo, we took a bike tour with Bike Tours Uruguay which was a good way to see the highlights. This was a tour with cruise critic friends, and we enjoyed seeing our cruise critic people at the meet and greet, as well as around the ship and on excursions. My husband took a private tour with others from cruise critic to Iguazu Falls on the first day in Buenos Aires and they were delayed due to a lightning strike at the Iguazu airport. Those on the Princess tour got a discount because of the shortened day, so the private tour ended up costing about the same, for a very shortened visit to the falls. Finally, on the last day, we took the Princess Estancia excursion to the ranch, and had a nice leisurely time there, I got to ride a horse, and we had a fantastic lunch. it was a nice way to end the cruise, stress free and we were taken directly to the airport.
Full disclosure, less than a week before the cruise, we accepted a move over offer from Princess and exchanged our balcony cabin for an inside one, A336 is inside with 4 beds and a communicating door. We were lucky, and rarely heard our neighbors. The upper births didn’t bother us, as they are folded up against the walls. However, if you are tall, large, or have mobility issues, you might choose one with only two beds. We had our beds together as a queen, and thought there was enough space to walk around. There was definitely enough room for our stuff, and the large suitcases went under the bed. We spent some afternoons in the lounges with windows reading, and time up on deck that we might have spent on the balcony. If money is the issue, I wouldn’t give up this cruise because you need an inside cabin.