This was a long planned bucket list trip to see South America and especially Patagonia. The on-board service was absolutely excellent with HAL's customary exemplary service in the bar, restaurants and cabin, and with the sea going and port tender management. Although we were in gale or storm force winds for much of the open water sections of the voyage trip, the Zaandam is extremely sea kindly and the motion was never uncomfortable. We splurged on a Neptune Cabin and concierge service which was well worth the premium with just nothing to fault it. The Zaandam is a newer R class ship and although similar to the older S Class Ryndam, Veendam and Maasdam upon which we have made previous cruises, is generally much "sharper" and more salubrious. Unfortunately however the Carnival "cheapscate" ownership of HAL once again reared its ugly presence, as previously for us with an Alaska trip which included an on-shore hotel component, with a truly dreadful hotel - this time after a bait and switch where a reasonable four star hotel originally scheduled for our trip at time of booking was substituted by HAL with a truly lousy three star - in Buenos Aires. To add insult to injury my wife's designer sunglasses and costume jewelry were stolen from our room when we were taking our bags downstairs for delivery to the ship (an action necessitated by the failure of the hotel to do this job).
These are my general comments; insofar as the specifics of this cruise are concerned, the following provide some summary thoughts:
In addition to the lousy hotel, the BA trip was marred by the prevalence of "Argentine Time" - 45 minutes to more than an hour at least late for everything - and generally sloppy management in BA. The best part was the Delta Cruise and Tango dinner which would probably have been excellent if we had started on time. As it was we were so late that the cruise through the delta islands was in pitch darkness. Montevideo was also marred by an inadequate guide and bus service, although others on board who did not use the HAL tour enjoyed it. After a rough two days at sea the on shore components started getting much better with the stop at the Falklands - a really well managed tender experience. The shorter penguin tours - they are adorable - was more than sufficient and the quaint town and environment were most interesting. Punta Arenas was our first stop in Chile, when the different attitude between the Chileans and Argentinians became obvious, and not just because the clocks worked! We had an emergency tender operation at Punta Arenas due to a dock conflict that the ships crew managed really well. The cruising through the Magellan Straits and Beagle Passage were delightful with awesome scenery before our next stop to Ushuaia and a visit to the southermost tip of South America. After more gorgeous Patagonia cruising we had a brilliantly managed rounding of The Horn before more Fjords and a delightful stop at Puerto Montt, where the German restauranteur and market trip was brilliant.
Disembarkation at San Antonio was excellent, after which we made our own, very successful independent arrangements for driver, Santiago tour and hotel - a lesson learned!
Overall, an excellent cruise which, as with our Alaska trip some years ago, started out really badly by HAL's failure to provide an on-shore experience that is anywhere remotely comparable to their on ship board experience, but ended real well.
Excellent and very comfortable; a couple of maintenance issues were taken care of most promptly. The adjacent concierge lounge was a most appreciated plus.