I have benefited immensely by the reviews posted on Cruise Critic, but have never taken the time to write one myself. For many years, the message boards have proved invaluable for planning our excursions. I can’t thank Cruise Critic enough. It is my hope that readers will find this helpful. Warning- very detailed.
We booked balcony cabin #8221. I appreciate the connections on the CC message boards and were able to join private excursions with them. They were limited person tours at a fraction of the ship's cost.
I have taken about 30 cruises, 4 on Norwegian. I gave up on Carnival years ago and have not sailed NCL in a very long time remembering the food was so bad. Oceania and Azamara are favorites, but the prices are higher. My husband insists on a balcony and loves a beverage package. We find Celebrity to be the best cruise for the price. Royal Caribbean’s food has gone down hill and does not offer the beverage package as a perk. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the offers.
My husband and I flew to Buenos Aires, nonstop from JFK, two days before our cruise in South America. A real benefit of a South American destination is no jet lag. We were met at the airport by a driver, arranged by our host at the Airbnb. We had dinner at Don Julio’s, a favorite restaurant. The next morning, the same driver drove us to the cruise port.
We arrived at 11:30 and were on the ship quickly with priority boarding. Luggage was promptly delivered to our cabin. Nothing compares to that first day on the ship feeling. Our room steward stopped by, but seemed put out when we told him that we needed fresh towels and ice. He had hoped not to come back again that day. We never received any ice after that. We had dinner in the MDR with a table for two. We prefer the traditional seating, with a large table, but NCL only offers Freestyle. The number of English speakers on the cruise seemed limited. Many Germans were on this sailing, some South Americans, French and Swedes. We enjoyed meeting many of the international passengers. Dinner was an unappetizing onion soup and chicken picante. We went to a nearly empty Spinnaker for cocktails and were told that they closed at 11:00. If you are looking for any Bar after 11:00 on this cruise, you will not find one.
Montevideo was our first port. My husband went off the ship for a walk around and returned a couple hours later. I stayed on the ship to enjoy the drink package, sun and hot tubs. The hot tub was lukewarm. To my surprise children were allowed in the hot tubs unattended. A couple took their baby in. No food or drink is allowed in the tubs, but I fished out a small brown object, floating in the tepid water.(I subsequently developed a rash and never went in any hot tub again) After a hot shower, we went to see the comedian. Didn’t find him particularly funny. We did not attend any other shows. Dinner in MDR consisted of clam chowder, which lacked clams or potatoes, sprinkled with bacon followed by dry fish. As it was Super Bowl Sunday, the ship offered the game shown on a large screen in the theater. They thoughtfully provided traditional Super Bowl foods. We had drinks in the Windjammer Bar and enjoyed the bartenders and singers who performed there. It was to become our regular spot for it’s wonderful service.
Punta del Este. We had breakfast in the dining room. The food was better there than in the buffet. We had arranged a walking tour and met at the famous sculpture on the beach. There were only five other people, all from the ship. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the walking tour, though the beaches didn’t look too inviting. My husband felt his gout starting to flare and the medical facility on the ship did not have prednisone. Fortunately, we had no trouble buying it at a pharmacy in town without a prescription. We were back on the ship for lunch after a quick tender. Our room steward dropped off the next day’s itinerary and took the opportunity to ask if we wanted him to come in the evening while we were at dinner. We replied in the affirmative and said that we would be leaving for dinner at 9. He seemed exasperated and asked if we could go at 8:30 and we agreed. The line at the MDR was very long and we took the buzzer with us to the Windjammer to wait. After about an hour, the bartender offered to check on our reservation. He was told that they were looking for us and the buzzer didn’t work outside of the dining area. I had very good ribs, we were the last to leave the dining room. We went to the Spinnaker only to find a few people singing bad karaoke in Spanish. We didn’t stay.
I expected the weather to turn much cooler for our Sea Day as we headed south, but it was delightful. I asked about the Cruise Critic reception, as it is usually scheduled for the first sea day. A large group gathered at 11:00 in the Spinnaker. The ship provided officers who kindly answered questions and concerns. The wonderful woman, who organized this gathering, arranged special tenders for us with the helpful staff. The ship provided a barbecue on deck for lunch. We made dinner reservations by phone so we wouldn’t have to wait in line at the MDR and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon in the sun. Dinner was passable linguine with clams, then drinks at the Windjammer which closes at 11:00.
Puerto Tambo. We were up at 7 and enjoyed breakfast on the aft deck. One staff member said that we were very fortunate with the weather. The week before it had been windy and cold. We met our tour at 9:15, which we had arranged through the cruise critic message board members in advance. We joined our small group for a 2 1/2 hour ride to see the penguins. The weather was perfect. We returned for cocktails and snacks before a 9:00 reservation in the MDR. Dinner was a good pate served with stale bread, risotto and unpleasant beef stroganoff, followed by nice music and drinks in the Windjammer- until 11:00.
The following sea day we enjoyed breakfast in the MDR with a very nice couple from Colorado whom we met waiting in line. Afterwards we went to listen to a professor scheduled speak about the Falkland Islands, a place he had never visited. He was elderly and rambling and got into it with some of the Argentinians. We then went to what was billed as a lecture on the history of the wristwatch which turned out to be a sales pitch. Dinner was at Cagney’s, the first of four reservations at specialty restaurants. Because of our disappointing meals at MDR, I was looking forward to this. It was nice, but not particularly special. Lovely views from the windows. We attended an Irish music night in the Windjammer. Very popular.
Port Stanley. Arose at 7 and took our buffet breakfast to the Sports Bar. Breakfast is also served in Moderno and outside, on the deck. It had started to turn noticeably cooler and the Sports Bar has great views from the large windows. We took our special, cruise critic tender to the Falkland Islands and paid $20 for a shuttle to see the penguins. We had a nice hike, though it was cold and windy and then walked into town. There is a great museum, free with your ship card. We had dinner at Le Bistro. Lamb chops were good, but not much else. The weather was getting cold and windy, the ocean a little rough.
At sea day. Used the ship’s internet, which worked well.
Had a good lunch in the MDR. Enjoyed watching the sail around Cape Horn around 6 from our balcony.
Ushuaia. The day started cold and rainy. Took the $10 bus into town and returned for lunch. Free WiFi was available at the tourist center. Back on board, we had to wait in line for an hour to get through immigration and passports for Chile. Sailed the Beagle Channel and saw beautiful glaciers. Could not face another bad dinner in the MDR, so just skipped it.
Punta Arenas. Paid $3 for shuttle into town rather than wait in a long line, in the cold, for the free NCL bus. Free WiFi in the Central Park. We joined an English speaking walking tour which was forming nearby. Lots of people. More of a guided walk than a tour. We visited a cemetery and a free museum. When we returned to the buses, it was mayhem with so many people clamoring to get on the free NCL bus. That evening, Jimmy Buffet music was played at the Windjammer. We had fish and chips in the Sports Bar and sailed the Straits of Magellan.
The following day at sea was particularly rough as we sailed the Pacific. People were sick and hazmat suits were pressed into service. Passengers were unsteady and food was spilled, outside decks were closed. We watched the waves from the Sports Bar. Lunch featured a German theme, very good. The sea was calm as we sailed the Chilean Fjords. Just beautiful. We had another dinner in Cagney’s that night.
Another sea day as we sailed the Patagonia Channels. We saw porpoises and whales. The weather warmed as we sailed north and we enjoyed spending time on deck watching the stunning scenery.
Puerto Montt. Our Cruise Critic leader arranged for early tenders for our group. We joined 15 others for another small group tour arranged by a Cruise Critic member. It was an exceptional day with perfect weather. We visited an alpaca farm, saw falls, National Parks, lake, volcanos, took a scenic ride on a ski lift and stopped in a German style town. It seems that all of the tours stopped there. Thank goodness we found a Radisson Hotel. Free bathrooms had been scarce throughout Argentina and Chile. We did not have any local money for pay toilets or food, beverages. We used the WiFi at the Radisson until we met our bus. Unfortunately, all the tours arrived at the port at the same time. We waited in a very long line for 1 1/2 hours to go through local security before being allowed to board a tender. Thankfully, the ship delayed our departure. As it was Valentines Day, we were delighted with the festive decorations. We had dinner in the MDR and was served the best entree of the cruise, lamb shank.
Our last day was spent relaxing at sea. We had dinner at Le Cucina.There was nothing to recommend it.
We were off the ship by 8:30 and joined the 8 others who had arranged a day in Santiago from Cruise Critic boards. It was very nice and we arrived at the airport by 7 for our 10 o’clock flight.
We loved the 14 day itinerary with plenty of time spent in port, balanced with sea days. Freestyle cruising has become very popular in the industry, but not for us. We like sharing a table and getting to know other passengers. Some people have complained that there wasn’t enough to do on sea days, but I loved them. I think there was plenty to keep people occupied with dance lessons, workouts, crafts and games. The food was pretty bad and I doubt that I will sail NCL again. I had asked about upgrading our 4 night specialty package to a seven night, but was told that I had to buy a separate 3 night package after I used my 4 night package. You will no longer find smoked salmon at the breakfast buffet, no sign of fresh berries or made to order hamburgers, though the pasta and pizza station were good at lunch. The French fries served were right from the freezer, even those served in the specialty restaurant. For the most part, staff was very good. We didn’t spend time in the casino (too smoky), art auctions or the spa. The beverage package is nice to have, but cans of soda, iced tea, fresh squeezed juice, smoothies, and bottled water are not included. I heard many ask for herbal tea or sugar free tonic, but these were not available. Some bar items simply ran out, not to be replaced. Some Chilean wines were added and enjoyed- while they lasted. The ship was the perfect size for us and easy to navigate. I have enjoyed all of my cruises, some more than others. Ultimately, in my opinion, good food is very important and I have already booked my next cruise with Celebrity.