Penguins and Ice: Veendam Cruise Review by llary

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Member Since 2012
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Penguins and Ice

Sail Date: December 2011
Destination: South America
Embarkation: Buenos Aires
Another trip of a lifetime. We arrived in Buenos Aires 5 days early and took a side trip to Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. If you are ever in the area, this is not to miss. We were there in December which is summer and it was 100 degrees in the jungle but walking the paths and seeing the falls worth every minute of the heat.
The cruise was not without problems. A crane hit us as we were leaving and we had to wait for officials to assess the damage costing us a port day. Who knows if the Argentine harbor pilot put us in the wrong spot, HAL didn't follow the harbor pilot direction or the crane was at fault. The people who had booked a weather cancelled Antarctic landing were disappointed in the alternative, as it seemed the excursion company made promises they didn't keep. I hope HAL discontinues using that tour company. We had an obnoxious 50+ group on board who did everything together, were demanding and rude. This caused delays for the rest of us at More open seating dinner and during tendering. But even as I write this, I have to think back on the problems. The good times completely overshadowed the bad.
Our first glimpse of Antarctica was Elephant Island at 4:30am. It was light outside! The sun set at midnight and came up at 2:30am. It never got completely dark, so the Aurora Australis was not showing. We had open water for the next few hours with lots of icebergs. My, my, how photogenic those icebergs were. Then we spent 3 days cruising through Antarctic waters. We had great weather. No rain, snow or strong wind. We were gifted blue skies for part of every day. Temperatures at night were in the 30's but reached the 40's during the day. There were four people with 100+ years combined Antarctic experience on board. They gave color commentary during the days in Antarctica and lectures other days. The grandeur and spectacular scenery never got tiring. Watching for penguins, whales and seals was easy. They were everywhere. We took on 16 people from Palmer Station who gave lectures on our last day. We saw icebergs of every shape and size, glaciers on every shore, rocky mountains and penguin colonies. And on one fine day with blue sky and no wind, the water was so calm, it was like a reflecting pond. The photos are unbelievable.
A storm blew in as we left, so the passage to Ushuaia was rough. Amalia Glacier was beautiful, but after Antarctica, any other ice is a let down. I've been ruined! and happily so.
This cruise is not about the service, ports, entertainment or amenities. This cruise is about nature. HAL provided 4 professionals to enhance the experience with lectures, and we had a great time. The three days spent cruising in Antarctica will never be forgotten. Less

Published 03/09/12
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Cabin review: FF719 Large Ocean-View Stateroom

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Port and Shore Excursions

Buenos Aires was very European. Be sure to see a Tango show and a lovely Italian artist area called LaBoca. Lots of stuff to see and do if you like visiting cities.

Lovely European architecture. We took an excursion to a winery, visited their car collection, and watched a tango show during a great lunch.

I will express my excursion frustrations here. 1) If you want to book two tours in one day, that is your privilege. We were delayed leaving the ship 50 minutes. We could still have had our 4 hour tour, but because two people had booked another tour at 1pm, we all had to rush to get back. That is NOT fair to 38 other guests. Don't impose your schedule on the other guests. 2) If you are to be back on the bus at a certain time, BE THERE. We waited 20 minutes for one inconsiderate man who didn't even apologize and another 5 minutes for others at another stop. That time was taken from our last stop which was rushed and ruined because we had to be back at 1pm for the other guests. The tour was fine, but the lack of consideration of fellow guests ruined this day for us.

City Tour

Nice combination tour. We visited a museum of many small buildings. One was an apothacary (pharmacy), a tailor, a movie store, homes, garage, farm, kitchens and all were furnished with appropriate equipment from the 1930's or earlier. Great poster in the tailor shop of London fashions and lots of old equipment outside. Then we walked a cemetary and marveled at the huge mausoleums and structures. After a wine tasting and Llama empanadas, we enjoyed a demonstration of sheep shearing and tour of a sheep farm.

The first experience with penguins was on Christmas Day in the Falkland Islands. A driver took us out to Elephant Beach in a 4x4. We saw the rookeries of both Magellanic and Gentoo penguins and spent time watching them on the beach. There were also King penguins on the beach. Our driver was very informative and although long, the 2 hr drive on gravel roads was fine. If I were to do it again, I would go see the Rock Hopper penguins. That rookery is closer to Stanley and you have other opportunities to see Magellanic and Gentoo penguins in Punta Arenas or Ushuaia.
Read 95 Stanley Reviews

Lovely city. We took a boat into the harbor to see birds, penguins and seals then on through the nature park by bus. I wasn't happy with our guide, she wasn't very talkative and didn't point out much wildlife but other buses were very pleased. We did see rare black necked swans.
Read 179 Ushuaia Reviews

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