My first ever cruise - wanted to visit as many South American countries as possible. 14 hour flight from London direct to Santiago (spent 3 days there beforehand which was amazing). Cabin on Dolphin deck very adequate, if slightly dated. Had 16 nights on board and visited some amazing places including ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Chilean fjords were spectacular and weather on the whole cruise was gorgeous - blue skies, sun and calm seas everywhere. Only rained once in Buenos Aires! We went to every port - my favourite was Stanley in the Falkland Islands. As weather was so good, we were able to go on the bow when we rounded "The Horn" which was as calm as a mill pond!
Ship's facilities all good. Food was very good - only downsize was not too much veggie fare and you had to book your lunch/evening food in the main restaurant the night before or at breakfast. We didn't do this much as we didn't want to have to plan where we ate every day. We took water bottles which were a bit of a trial to fill several times a day. We were told to refill them at the "Lido" (buffet style restaurant) from the jugs, but lots of the waiters told us we had to use the glasses to avoid contamination. After a while we asked at various bars throughout the ship. Mostly accommodating but we did get hot water a few times! Zaandam could really benefit from a water fountain somewhere on board. When we were on board they were charging $5 (plus surcharge) for Evian water bottle so beware of these extra charges.
Staff mostly all lovely and polite, especially our stewards and serving staff at main restaurant. Captain very informative and enjoyed the 12.00 daily updates. Entertainment was fun and we particularly liked the Zaandam dancers. There was so much going on that you would never be bored - we enjoyed just chilling in the various bars, whale watching (we saw some tails!) and indulging in the odd cocktail - expensive so we bought them in happy hour.
On Dolphin deck on floor 1. Very quiet cabin, apart from a couple of days where they needed to use the landing boats in ports that we couldn't dock in. The boat was right underneath us and it did sound like the floor was falling in! Didn't mind though as we were getting up to go ashore anyway. On the last day when we arrived at Rio, the gangway came out from underneath us well. Would book this cabin again though as generally very quiet and cleaned by the lovely Deni and Sura (our stewards). Some parts a little bit shabby (carpets etc). Windows never cleaned the whole voyage as I think we were always on the sea side in all the ports. Plenty of room and loads of storage. Chocolate every night, information for the next day and a different 'towel animal' to make us smile.
Free shuttle coaches from ship to town which was quite a way away, although we did spot a pedestrian path whcih seemed to go all the way. Nice little town and museum (although the main one was closed on the day we emabarked). Nice town square with lots going on and amazing weather (although cold in October). We walked to the viewpoint on top of the highest hill around where you could see good views of the sea and Zaandam.
My favourite port. Delighted to have good weather and land (apparently only 50% of passengers manage to due to poor weather conditions). Lovely, organised place and everything in walking distance. Very nice museum which was free for Zaandam passengers on the day. Good selection of shops (mostly touristy things) but did have a Co-op with British things to buy and we bought a picnic. Went everywhere including the Memorial wood which was quiet and moving. Were told they only accepted FI pounds but this wasn't correct and they took all typed of money and our UK debit cards.
Hot and sunny when we went in October. Wandered around the "old city" where the ship docked. Very interesting old colonial buildings but a lot of them were very run down and didn't appear to be in use. Felt very safe and lots of directions to help us get around. People all very friendly. Walked to the "new city" but very hot and busy so we walked back again! As usual, we were very lucky with the weather and just wandered about and sat in the few places of shade we found. Strangely, lots of dogs wandering about.
Went to an olive producing farm (Lotte 8). Took about an hour to get there by coach but saw loads of scenic Uruguay which surprisingly looked a lot like Devon/UK. Interesting and informative host and good talk about olive producing. Provided wine/bread/olive oil tasting and we walked round the olive trees on our own after asking the owner if we could! Punta del Este seemed like a nice place (we didn't have time to see it on this tour) but while we waited to board the tender boat, we saw lots of sealions who had come for a free feed at the local fish shop. They were amazing and huge! I don't think HAL are going there anymore which is a shame but glad I went when I could. Usual good weather, although was a bit British-like at the olive farm (drizzly and cold!!)