I recently returned from a wonderful cruise on the Stella Australis. This was my first cruise and I must confess I absolutely loved it. It was an adventure of a lifetime being in Patagonia and relatively so close to Antarctica ! We embarked at Ushuaia (Argentina), which was a quaint little town (stopped one night prior to my departure). Very scenic and plenty of stores to stock up ahead of your cruise. Then we set off heading towards Punta Arenas, Chile, as our ultimate destination. The ship was immaculate, clean, thoroughly hygienic. I occupied a cabin on the 2nd floor and there are a total of 4 floors for cabins. It's a small cruise ship (~166 passengers) and this actually proved great since by the end of the week you pretty much knew the majority of folks on a first name basis. Average age was around 60+ and predominantly comprised of retired couples from North America i.e. University Alumni tours, along with a sprinkling of European countries such as Italy, France, Germany. I was a solo traveler, there were not too many of us, but we were certainly made to feel welcome and constantly invited to join other tours for drinks etc.
Each day/night for breakfast, lunch & dinner you are seated with the same people for the entire duration. Initially, I was a tad worried about this, but I absolutely loved my table companions and we have since exchanged emails to keep in touch. Everyone was exceptionally friendly and outgoing.
The cruise is structured as follows: Each day you visit a new location and conduct excursions using the Zodiac boats, for example visiting Glaciers, Cape Horn and the highlight for me Magdalena island to see the famous Magellan penguins . - they were superb! Somedays comprised of 2 excursions per day. A typical excursion was a landing via Zodiac on the beach or coastline, then split into 3 groups based on your level of fitness and interest in the local fauna and Geology. For example, I love to run long distance and hike so each day i took the most challenging hikes. They were very demanding and certainly at times quite treacherous on the slippery rocks and grass but we were always safe on account of the excellent trained staff who accompanied you on all excursions. The staff were exceptionally knowledgeable on the local wildlife and Geology and always made the trips a great deal of fun! There were also hikes that didn't require much exercise and elderly people with walking sticks and who required assistance typically took these hikes. It was wonderful to complete one of the excursions and to be greeted on the beach by one of the staff handing out whisky and hot chocolate = delicious and warm.
In terms of day to day activities on the boat, it mainly comprised of relaxing and watching the world go by with a drink or two. There is a fifth floor deck bar (all inclusive alcohol and soft drinks) which was superb! Each morning on the fourth floor Sky Lounge, tea, coffee and snacks were provided around 6am for the early risers - I really appreciated this nice touch. Each evening lectures of the following day excursions were provided and this really helped give you an appreciation of where you are visiting.
The food on the cruise was excellent. Varied menu, typically 3 courses (all inclusive) and so many deserts to choose from it was ridiculous :) The waiters were very friendly and often chatted at the tables during meal times.
In terms of the excisions, the staff ran this process like a machine and height of efficiency. They assisted all those who needed help getting in and out of the Zodiac. One cannot stress enough, the need for waterproof clothing, gloves, woolly hat and solid hiking boots. You will definitely get muddy if you opt for the more strenuous hikes so be prepared to have a change of clothes each day.
The cabins were cleaned thoroughly each day, and new towels provided as one might expect in a hotel. Water was drinkable on the ship. It was very relaxing to watch the world go by in my cabin each morning and realize we were in a new location.
All in all i cannot fault this cruise I thoroughly recommend it !
Huge shout out to "Vicky" and Emmanuel - very helpful, knowledgeable and humorous guides.
Oh don't forget your camera iPhone will suffice for majority of excursions but i found an SLR with Zoom lens to be extremely beneficial for Magdalena island and close up of penguins
One point to note, this is NOT a cruise for young children, they will literally be bored to tears, plus the excursions and getting on and off Zodiacs could be a tad risky for them. There is no WiFi or Cell service or TV/Games for them. It's definitely not one of the Disney type cruises that they might expect. I have 3 children and they would have been very bored on this - I feel it's fair to mention, it much more applicable to Adults who wish to experience an adventure of a lifetime, learn about Patagonia, history and Geology and get away from all the pressures of work and social media nonsense etc. Enjoy!
Cabin was great, nice comfy double Queen size bed. Sheets changed along with towels - very clean and thorough staff. Ample size. Shower / bathroom was great, nice hot water which was needed at the end of the day after a tiring excursion on shore. limited closet space as one might expect on a such a small boat but that was fine. You were mainly wearing fleece jackets, sweaters, comfy pants and water proof pants and jacket for the excursions.