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.
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.