This was my second adventure with The Coral, the first in 2015 to Alaska, so who better to cruise again to Antarctica. I was a solo traveller from Sunderland to Santiago - a very long way! After the nightmare chaos of Santiago Airport, though to be fair there were many Princess reps on hand to guide us through it, embarkation was stress free and in no time at all I was in my cabin. Mark Lee my cabin steward introduced himself to me straight away and throughout the cruise he was helpful and friendly. There was a little wait for cases and some people were huffing and puffing, waiting outside their cabin doors, but generally they were delivered within a couple of hours. Safety drill completed we all eagerly awaited our 6pm sail and waited.... our Captain Todd McBain (who proved to be ‘the very best’ had the unfortunate task of telling us that the fuel barge had been delayed and we would not now sail until 2.30 pm next day. Also, due to the delay and the deep weather system that was following us we would not now be calling at Punta Arenas, but instead sail through the Inside Passage straight to Ushuaia. OK, so you can’t change the weather and the fuel situation was completely out of Princess’ control but nevertheless this was a huge disappointment as I had booked a rather expensive excursion to Paine National Park which was to be a major highlight of my trip. The refund was in my account within an hour and because of that I treat myself to the rather expensive unlimited WiFi package. Normally I would just take advantage of the Platinum/Elite 250 mins free package but it means you have to keep an eye on limits and keep logging out. This way I could keep in touch with all my friends and family back home and this was a real bonus on this cruise as a I felt they had sailed with me! Again, within hours they had arranged an additional Port of call - Puerto Montt, Though another big blow was the change to the Antarctic itinerary, cutting the cruise day’s from 4 to just 2. Again this would have been a huge disappointment to many passengers. So we all picked our spirits up and the ship sailed on Monday afternoon. Getting to know the ship again was easy, my favourite evening drink spot was Crooners. On exploring I found the Horizon Court Buffet was literally minutes away from my cabin. I have not previously made a lot of use of Horizon Court, as a solo traveller it’s always difficult to get a seat and I wasn’t that impressed with the food. However, I found the choice and quality on this trip much much better and even managed to get a seat, though sometimes I just picked up something and took it straight to my cabin for my own private dining! My dining options were Bordeau Anytime and although many passengers praised the restaurant I found it a little ‘stuffy’ and they looked on me very distainly when I requested a table on my own - really, it’s not that I am unfriendly, and some evenings you enjoy the enrichment of talking to passengers from different walks of life, I just get a little tired of explaining myself to different passengers on large tables. I suspect this happens on all cruise ships.
So a couple of choppy days at sea and some misty cruising we arrived at Puerto Montt on the day when it rained heavily and we saw nothing! Ushaia was very pretty and thankfully we enjoyed our excursion on the steam train. Don’t forget there are lots of sail days on this trip - another couple of days at sea and we rounded Cape Horn, although a windy and misty day it was quite an emotional experience. Continuing on we arrived at the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsular which proved spectacular and thankfully we enjoyed some decent weather - especially the Charlotte Bay sailing - the whole two days were magical lots of penguins, whales, seals in abundance as we sailed North. There were three lecturers on board, Bob, Tony and Christian who, from day two of the cruise provided daily lectures on the joys of Antarctica, explained the history and natural history of the area. Princess also provided us with helpful maps and descriptions of the birds and wildlife we would encounter along the way. Sometimes you would spend all morning in the Lecture Theatre! They were always well attended. As well as the lecturers the Shore Excursion Director was on hand to tell us all about the ports we were to visit. Now previously I have found this all a bit ‘up selling’ but this was an entirely different take, Humberto was very knowledgeable about the areas we visited, was very entertaining and charming and in no way was this an excursion sell session - quite the opposite. In no time our 48 hours in Antarctica sadly came to an end, another disappointment due to the weather was the very early morning sail past Deception Island, everyone was on deck but unfortunately the weather beat us and the fog was so bad there was nothing to see! We moved on though and enjoyed Admiralty Bay, Prince George and Elephant Islands to name but a few. If you want to have a good close up wildlife experience please remember to invest in a very good camera and/or decent binoculars and you will not be disappointed though on Antarctic day’s expect all the viewing areas in Decks 12/14 to be crowded and unfortunately it’s every man/woman to himself!
Two more sail days and we arrived at Falkland Islands, it’s a lovely, fragile place that reminds me very much of the Scottish Islands and the Rockhopper penguin colony was amazing.
All balcony cabins pretty much the same. A tiny shower but I knew that, always a lot of hot water and power. On this particular trip Santiago - Buenos Aires I found the Port side to be an excellent choice for views. It was clean and well looked after by the Cabin Steward.