Chose this cruise on a whim, as we saw an advertisement from a consolidator, contacted our agent to see what she could do, and then jumped. It gave me bragging rights, whatever that means, to say I was on all seven continents before I turned 70. (Okay, I didn't 'touch' Antarctica, but it touched me, so close enough.) We also had kids who had other plans for Christmas so we were free to travel. We flew into Buenos Aires a couple days early and explored. I suggest this because of the long flight from the US, particularly the Pacific Northwest. We stayed in the city so were able to walk to the Recoleta area, a ten minute cab ride to the ship. The cemetery where Eva Peron was buried was a highlight, as was the Teatro Colon'. Great walking city, with some taxi work. Enjoyed Buenos Aires, knew nothing about the rest of the itinerary except Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, but was willing to learn. And learn we did. This cruise is an education, with loads of lectures from specialists. The ports are touch and go because of the weather, as is the route in the Antarctica, so for totally uptight, obsessed with "what I was told" folks might want to rethink this. Montevideo, Uruguay is a large, poor city that gives an interesting counterpoint to Buenos Aires. Puerto Madryn had an amazing boardwalk, so it was a great Sunday stroll, watching the locals play on a beautiful beach. Stanley, in the Falklands, was a reminder that wars are occasionally fought for stupid reasons. This bleak, but beautiful bunch of small islands, was a great visit and our first penguin experience. From there it was six days at sea, one to Antarctica, four in Antarctica, one back to South America. The weather cooperated, which isn't necessarily normal, so we were able to be outside, watching ice flows, animals, wind, water, and all the rest. We had to adjust our route constantly so our experience will not necessarily the same for others. We dreaded Drake Passage, but it wasn't bad. The other ports, Ushuaia, Puenta Arenas, Chacabuco, and Castro were small, unique, and really needed one to take an excursion. We missed Puerto Montt because of weather, arriving at Santiago early. HAL did a great job of adjusting and taking precautions, so it was all good. The dining room was exceptional. We enjoyed the entertainment, both around the ship and on the main stage. Scheduling that must be a nightmare as opinions vary so much. We spent most of our time in the Mix bar listening to Dan, the piano man. The Lido was fine, not a real buffet fan, but the Asian food and the salad bar were exceptional. Omelettes to order are not to be missed.
We were comped a meal at the Canaletto, one of the upscale restaurants, and we were not that impressed. It was fine, but not if we were paying. In fact, we turned down another comp meal there as we preferred the Main Dining Room, mostly because of our wonderful server, Eka and his crew. Actually the crew is the highlight. Our dining room group was amazing as were our four cabin stewards (yes, four-to be explained). Our one negative would be our room, actually an issue with the room and the initial way in which the problem was handled. We ended up moving half way through the cruise, which worked out, but we felt it would not have been necessary if words moved to action, rather than just being words.
Our cabin was fine, except for the constant banging noise when the ship encountered anything other than flat seas. All was well until after the Falkland Islands, when the seas kicked in. We noticed a banging noise, a noise like a slamming door. Except it slammed open, then shut, loudly, every six or seven seconds, or as regularly as the ship rolled or pitched. (We enjoy the movement, not the noise) All told we had four sleepless nights, after each one we talked with Guest Services, after the second and third we had people come and listen, and they heard what we heard. One came at 4:30 in the morning. Each day I asked about progress, each day they said they were "monitoring the situation." Apparently "monitoring" consisted of noting our concern, walking past, and closing the book. Finally, one afternoon as we came back from an excursion we walked past the hotel manager's office and I walked in, explaining our situation, the number of contacts with Guest Services, and the like. I apologized for bothering him, told him I was sure he had been informed (so we were told), and played the recording we made with our phone. This was at about 3:40 in the afternoon. By 4:10 we had a call and a note from Guest Services. They had a new room for us. We had been told earlier that there were no other rooms. Maybe someone left, maybe there always was a room. We moved. It was a comparable room, but not the one we had selected. Also, the banging didn't follow us, but we were under the storage area next to the Pinnacle Grill. Some bumps and thumps at night, but nothing like earlier.
Now our real concerns were there: 1)In conversation with Guest Services, my wife found out others previously had experienced the banging, but it was still issued to guests. 2)We tried proactively to solve the problem, or give guidance to what we heard and saw so someone might follow up. 3) Language and job responsibility get in the way sometimes. I tried to give as clear a description of the sound as possible. In doing some observation I noticed each time the noise happened (bang/bang) the fire sprinkler head above the bed moved about a quarter inch, then moved back. This indicated to me either the pipe itself was loose and banging and it was stressing the head or the pipe was being hit by something which stressed the pipe which stressed the sprinkler head. The sprinkler head wasn't the problem, it was a clue. The only visible action taken in our situation was trying to put silicone around the sprinkler head, the part that didn't move. I rake that up to either my bad explanation or working with folks who were not as proficient in English as they wished or they were from the desk at Guest Services and never held a wrench. Problems happen. How they are solved is the key to success and failure. I count this a failure, particularly if there are folks assigned to 3339 on the next cruise. My sister-in-law is on that cruise and she is going to check. Small world.
Lots of areas accessible by taxi or by walking. Fascinating city. Enjoyed the opera house tour and the Recoleta Cemetery
Great walking from the ship. Most of the sights are within a twenty minute walk, with churches, parks, squares, and lots of vendors.
What an amazing farm. Twenty minute drive from town in 16 passenger vans, transfer to four by fours and taken the last mile to the cove, where there are lots of penguins, and a small, wonderful cafe and gift shop, and a beach that is a wonder. The logistics of how this place runs are incredible, with split second timing and employment opportunities for lots of locals. the wind can be a challenge, as can the soft ground and the penguin poop, but that is why you go there.View All 37 Gentoo Penguins in Bluff Cove Reviews
Bus ride with several stops gives one a view of the furthest south part of the continent. Beautiful scenery and minimal walking, so generally accessible for most. Very popular so anticipate crowds. There on a Sunday so the post office at the end of the continent was closed so can't comment on crowds there.View All 93 Tierra del Fuego National Park Reviews
Nine thousand penguin pairs on a small island, plus loads of seagulls and their young. What could go wrong? It is a lengthy boat ride there, but worth it. The walk is uneven and about one mile, but not fast, plus one could do just an easy portion and get the view. I was bombed by a seagull and should have been equipped to clean it up, but I wasn't. Take wipes or tissue just in case. There are thousands of birds so lots could happen. It did to me.View All 32 Penguin Reserve Reviews